Centre to launch new anti-TB programme focused on nutrition- The New Indian Express

By Express News Service

NEW DELHI: Even as tuberculosis, one of the biggest killers, saw a 19 percent increase in 2021, the Centre has now planned to launch a new programme — Pradhan Mantri TB Mukt Bharat Abhiyan (PMTBMBA) — that will encourage financial contributions from not only non-governmental organisations (NGOs) but also private sector corporates and the community.

Driven primarily by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the programme, to be formally launched on August 20, is primarily aimed at providing nutritional support to TB patients. One of the main thrust areas of the programme will involve encouraging adopting TB patients so that their nutritional needs are met.

Confirming this to The New Indian Express, National Tuberculosis Elimination Programme (NTEP) Deputy Director General Dr Rajendra Joshi said that the new programme would be an expansion of the Union Health Ministry’s focus on TB eradication. The central government implements the NTEP under the aegis of the National Health Mission (NHM).

“Under this initiative, community support would be ramped up. Anybody — individuals, NGOs, corporate, organisations and institutions can take care of any one geographical area — be it a block or district — and provide TB patients with nutrition support,” Dr Joshi said.

Interestingly enough, following the PMO’s directives, the Union Health Ministry directly communicated with the governors and not the chief ministers of the states. Health ministry sources said that the governors’ offices would work with the respective state health departments to put the new programme in motion.

Recently, Union Health Minister Dr Mansukh Mandaviya had alluded to launching a new programme to eliminate TB, saying, “If a model is not yielding results, we can follow another.”

While the government’s financial contribution to a TB patient’s nutrition is a meagre Rs 500 a month under the Nikshay Poshan, the PMTBMBA aims to build an indicative list of nutrition that would include 3.5 kg cereals, 1.5 kg pulses, 1 litre of cooking oil, 1.5 kg of groundnut or milk powder or eggs per patient per month.

“We want commitments for a year from the corporates, NGOs and individuals who wish to adopt TB patients,” Joshi said.

Last year was among the worst for TB as a disease and its patients with an alarming spike in the number of infections which was recorded at 21.35 lakh (new and relapsed cases), according to government data. The increase was in excess of 3 lakh cases over the figure in 2020 when the total number of TB patients stood at 18.05 lakh.

The government undertook a pilot project in parts of Uttar Pradesh before finalising the new programme which, Joshi said, will cover all of India in the months to come.

Top Health Ministry sources said that “anti-TB medicines alone won’t work. It is necessary to provide nutritious food to the patients. Till now 12 lakh TB patients have been identified this year. They were asked whether they would prefer to be adopted. About 10 lakh accepted besides sharing that they would also like to get vocational training and jobs”.

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