WORKING TOWARDS the goal of eliminating tuberculosis (TB) by 2025, the Union Health Ministry is launching the Pradhan Mantri TB Mukt Bharat Abhiyan on Friday, which will include community support for patients – nutritional and additional diagnostic support for them, and vocational training for their families.
While the initiative, called ‘Ni-kshay Mitra’, is already underway in some states like Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, President Droupadi Murmu will formally launch it on Friday.
Under the scheme, individuals, NGOs and corporates can “adopt” TB patients by committing support for 1-3 years. To join the initiative, they will have to register on the site, https://communitysupport.nikshay.in, which has an anonymous list of TB patients, categorised according to the primary health centres, blocks, districts and states. The sponsors can select the number of patients as per their capacity.
A mail will be sent from the central TB division to the sponsor with details of their district’s TB officer, while the TB officer will be notified about the sponsor. The details of the patients will be provided to the sponsors by the officer, on condition that they maintain anonymity.
The health ministry, in collaboration with ICMR’s National Institute of Nutrition, has developed two options for monthly food baskets. The vegetarian food basket for adults has to contain 3 kg cereals or millets, 1.5 kg pulses, 250 g vegetable cooking oil, and 1 kg milk powder or 6 litres of milk or 1 kg groundnut. The non-vegetarian option will have an additional 30 eggs.
For children, the basket has to contain 2 kg cereals or millets, 1 kg pulses, 150 g vegetable cooking oil, and 750 g milk powder or 3.5 litres of milk or 0.7 kg groundnut. The sponsors are also asked to encourage patients to consume fresh vegetables, beans and fruits.
Each nutrition basket is likely to cost about Rs 1,000, said officials. The food baskets will be modified by the district officials as per the locally acceptable food.
“We don’t want people to donate money, we want the human touch. We want them to either make the baskets themselves or, if they are donating from outside the area, have someone do it on their behalf. If that is not possible, then they can ask their TB officer to connect them to local organisations which can do it. But we would prefer that people do it on their own,” said a health ministry official.
“Nutrition is a key factor when it comes to TB. Most of us have the TB bacteria in our body but it gets activated if nutrition is poor and the immune system is impaired. Not only will the programme provide the much-needed nutritional support to the people, it will also connect the community,” said an official. Besides raising awareness about TB, officials hope that it will also help reduce the stigma associated with it.
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“Adherence to TB medication for several months is a challenge, but, if not done, can lead to drug resistant forms of the disease. When the sponsors are connected to the patients, we want them to remain in contact with them, check whether they are receiving their monthly supplies and if they are taking their medicines regularly,” said the official.
In addition, the sponsors may also offer vocational training to family members of the TB patient. “Most of the TB patients are breadwinners, and this puts financial strain on their families. If a family member is trained in a vocation, they will be able to continue earning,” said an official.
India detects 20-25 lakh TB cases every year, and nearly 4 lakh die of it. At present, 13.5 lakh are undergoing TB treatment, of whom 9.26 lakh have already consented to being “adopted” under the initiative, said officials.