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With relatively few reported covid cases, the government is recalibrating it public health strategy to focus on eliminating leprosy, cataract and tuberculosis by 2025.

The health ministry has prepared a roadmap and has directed the State/UTs to address these on a priority basis, said a government official requesting anonymity.

In the last two years, the burden of these diseases -- cataract is an age-related complication -- has increased as the government focussed on fighting the covid-19 pandemic. While leprosy is endemic in several states and union territories, with the annual case detection rate at 4.56 per 10,000 population, the country also has a large number of TB and cataract patients.

According to the Annual Tuberculosis report 2022, covid-19 had a major impact on the National TB Elimination Programme as patients could not visit hospitals due to lockdown restrictions. TB cases in India jumped 19% to 1.93 million in 2021 after declining in the previous year.

Health minister Dr. Mansukh Mandaviya Thursday reiterated India’s commitment to ending TB and urged everyone to cooperate and collaborate at every level to achieve the goal.

Emphasizing on strengthening TB prevention activities, Mandaviya said the government will introduce a newly approved “made in India" TB infection skin test called ‘c-TB’, a cost-effective tool in the treatment of the highly infectious disease.

“Besides, the government is also planning strengthen the workforce as per the requirement and working enhance the healthcare infrastructure under the Prime Minister Ayushman Bharat Infrastructure Mission (PM ABHM)," said the official.

PM ABHM was an outlay of 64,180 crore in the 2021-22 Budget, aiming to fill the critical gaps in public health infrastructure, especially in critical care facilities and primary care in both the urban and rural areas.

The World Health Organization says that during 2020-2021, the prevalence of leprosy in India is 0.4 per 10,000 population. It said 58.1% of leprosy patients in India were multibacillary, 39% were women, 5.8% were children less than 14 years of age, and 2.41% had visible deformities. The rate of visible deformities was 1.1 per million in Indian population.

The union health ministry aims to clear the burden of around 20 million cataract-related blindness cases in India in the next three years.

“Before covid pandemic, India used to do around 50 lakh surgeries per year, but now also we are doing 50 lakh surgeries; therefore, backlog increased," said Prof JS Tityal, Cataract Surgeon and Chief of RP Eye Centre at AIIMS, New Delhi.

“Prior to covid, I used to have about 2-3 cataract surgeries in my OT in a total of 30 patients related to eye complications (every day). After covid, I am seeing around 10-15 cataract cases in my same OT. Government plans are very good to address the backlog. We need to run cataract specific drive across the country."

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