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India is implementing a revised national TB control programme to eradicate the disease in compliance with the World Health Organisation strategy to eliminate TB globally by 2050. Photo: istock
India is implementing a revised national TB control programme to eradicate the disease in compliance with the World Health Organisation strategy to eliminate TB globally by 2050. Photo: istock

Success of India’s TB eradication drive in question

Lack of sustained financial support and political will remain key challenges in a country that has the highest TB burden in the world

Mumbai: Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), a public-private initiative involving Indian and international academics, and state and central governments, doesn’t seem to be confident about the prospects of the country’s drive to eradicate tuberculosis (TB).

“India’s goal to be tuberculosis-free by 2050 will remain unachievable unless the government recognizes tuberculosis as a public health emergency and prioritizes tuberculosis eradication," according to Mahaveer Golechha, health policy expert at the health economics and financing unit of the PHFI. Golechha has voiced his concerns in a letter that is to be published in The Lancet journal on Friday. Lack of sustained financial support and political will remain key challenges in a country that has the highest TB burden in the world, accounting for nearly a quarter of the global incidence of the disease.

India is implementing a revised national TB control programme to eradicate the disease in compliance with the World Health Organisation strategy to eliminate TB globally by 2050.

The emergence of multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB has worsened the situation, demanding increased financial support and coordinated efforts. But the yearly funding of the TB control programme has not increased proportionately since the inception of the programme in 2006.

“India needs to apply lessons that were learned from the polio eradication programme to eradicate tuberculosis and needs to take the lead in addressing the root causes of its tuberculosis epidemic," Golechha said in his letter to The Lancet.

“Eradication of tuberculosis in India by 2050 will not be easy—but neither was the elimination of polio. Success depends on smart planning, mobilization of entire communities, and strong political leadership," wrote Golechha, an alumnus of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and London School of Economics.

TB, infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, is spread through the air by a person suffering from the disease and a single patient can infect at least 10 other people in a year. TB kills about 300,000 in people in India every year.

It is estimated that India suffers an economic loss of $43 billion and a loss of 100 million productive days annually because of the disease.

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