(Mumbai, India: December 31st, 2018) Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the top 10 causes of death and the leading cause from a single infectious agent across the globe. Millions of people continue to fall sick with TB each year. Of the 10 million new cases of persons diagnosed with Tuberculosis in 2017, India ranked the highest accounting for over one fourth (2.74 million) cases were from India, according to a rep by WHO. Though the report underlined fears of under-reporting of cases in India, it also mentioned that India was an example of a country that took major steps in 2017-18 to expand TB-specific cash transfers and linkages to broader nutrition schemes to improve treatment outcome.
It’s in this context, the initiatives by the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) at the just concluded 12th annual Global Healthcare Summit (GHS 2018) in Mumbai on Sunday, December 30, 2018, becomes very significant.
Building on its collaborative efforts with several non-governmental organizations and the USAID, AAPI committed to strengthen its initiatives to “make every city, ever district, every village in India TB free.” The planning/review session was an Introduction and Review of Building on Local Roadmaps for a TB-Free India – A Combined effort of AAPI and CETI under guidance of Government of India, USAID, where the progress in the 10 cities, where the program has been on for several months, was reviewed through a live webcast from each of these 10 cities.
Participants at the strategic planning session included, Dr. Naresh Parikh MD, President of AAPI; Anwar Feroz, AAPI’s Strategic Advisor; Dr. Salil Bhargava, CETI; Reuben Swamickan from USAID; Vikas Sheel, IAS, Joint Secretary of Health, Indian Government; Kuldeep Sachdeva, Deputy Director General of TB, Government of India; Dr. Manoj Jain, the Chair and spear heading the TB Free India initiative; Dr. Christine Ho and Rajesh Deshmukh from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and, Dr. Thakor G. Patel, AAPI-Savek project, Dr. Surendra Purohit anAAPI Advocate, and 60 participants from each of the local cities.
During the strategic planning session attended by top leaders of AAPI and other organizations, Dr. Naresh Parikh said, “Elimination of Tuberculosis has been a matter of national concern for many years now. Through our partnership with USAID and other organizations such as SEVAK and CETI, we aim to bring American technical expertise to help strengthen India’s fight against TB. At this GHS, we bring in leading subject matter experts, introduce global best practices and cutting-edge business solutions that will complement and grow existing USAID programs in India.”
He reminded of AAPI’s efforts earlier in April this year, with the launch of a new partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Sevak Project, and CETI to make India Free of Tuberculosis and to end tuberculosis (TB) from across the Indian sub-continent. Anwar Feroz, AAPI’s Strategic Advisor, who was instrumental and the architect of fostering the MOU between AAPI and USAID, provided a brief introduction to the efforts by AAPI and its collaborative efforts. .
“Continuing with AAPI’s mission, which is to provide a forum to facilitate and enable Indian American physicians to excel in patient care, teaching and research, and to pursue their aspirations in professional and community affairs, and giving back to their motherland, India, this historic signing of the agreement, is yet another way of showing our continued commitment to helping make India’s over a billion people, healthier,” Anwar Feroz said. The MoU outlines the multifaceted nature of the TB epidemic, its impact on communities, learnings from global successes and the way forward towards tackling the disease successfully.
Under the Memorandum of Understanding, signed in New Delhi and announced in Mumbai, AAPI and USAID along with other NGOs will work together to utilize the 100,000-strong network of physicians of Indian-origin living in the United States to support health programs in India, engage AAPI’s network of private charitable clinics for TB awareness, detection and treatment, and explore opportunities for collaborations between U.S. and Indian medical schools to exchange cutting-edge health care solutions. The end TB date for the program is 2025 as per government of India.
Reuben Swamickan from US-AID/India, said: “We have been supporting the TB program of the Government of India for two decades now. Along with extending technical expertise, USAID has invested $140 million to strengthen the capacity of national, state, and district-level TB programs across India. With our collaboration with AAPI, we aim to strengthen the early detection and treatment of TB, with a focus on drug-resistant strains; continue our assistance to the government to plan and implement evidence-based interventions to reach a TB-Free India, and improve patient-centered TB services.”
Dr. Manoj Jain, an infectious disease physician, a lead for AAPI for TB Elimination, is in the forefront to eliminate TB from India. Dr. Jain, who has been involved in working with local leaders develop a Local Roadmap on how to make 10 localities TB Free: Indore, Bhopal, Rajkot, Sevek villages in Gujarat, Mumbai-Malad, Ahmedabad, Mysore, Nagpur, Varanasi, and Lucknow, by conducting field work with local NGOs in these localities to do TB screening in the slum areas.
Dr. Jain said, “AAPI and CETI are working together can collaborating with other national and international organizations. Sharing best practices and pushing the TB Free effort. We have done a successful training sessions for 10 NGOs from these communites in Indore from June 8-12. We are staring to build local teams to develop the Roadmap for TB Elimination. And, we hope to start field work in these localities within 4-6 weeks.” Details of the work on the website www.tbfree.org/aapi/
Dr. Thakor G. Patel, who along with his successful Sevak Project in Indian villages, has been another inspiring force with the aim to free India of TB. “This is a huge issue in India because of clustering of people, poor nutrition and exposure to the infected people,” Dr. Patel said. “The objective of the TB Free India initiative is to make people aware of the disease and its mode of transmission, identify new case and notify the TB program managers and make sure patients take their medicines on regular basis. Another aspect is those patients with lingering cough give their sputum for TB check and get a chest X-ray. In the long run the plan is to eliminate TB from India,’ he said. The people who are affected with the disease are poor and do not understand the spread and the need for complete treatment. By helping them we will keep them working and provide for their family on a long term basis.
And, he has charted out a plan. “Collaboration with AAPI will help reach the government agencies in India and other NGO’s to help increase the outreach. At first, we will take all the Sevak villages and have the Sevaks implement the program. Once it is in place and we have a road map on how to expand the program it will be implemented in other states through NGO’s and government. We will be looking at ASHA workers for expanding the reach.”