Corporates join the call to action for TB free India

The dialogue served as a platform to introduce interventions planned by the big corporate firms with the State Government and the Mumbai Municipal Corporation’s Public Health Department

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New Delhi:  A Corporate Sector Dialogue was organized recently by The International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union), bringing together corporates that have committed to support the Government of India’s “Call to Action for a TB-Free India” campaign.

Ambuja Cement, Crompton Greaves, Essar Foundation, Larsen & Turbo, DHFL, Lupin, Johnson & Johnson, Qiagen,  Cepheid, Omkar Foundation and Tata Trusts were among the corporates and corporate foundations that were present. The dialogue served as a platform to introduce interventions planned by the corporates with the State Government and the Mumbai Municipal Corporation’s Public Health Department. This was also an opportunity for the corporates to meet the Government  and share their ideas and, plan for collaborating and complementing the government’s efforts to address India’s TB challenge.

Dr Padmaja S. Keskar, Executive Health Officer, Mumbai Public Health Department; Dr. Madhukar  Pawar, Deputy State TB Officer, State TB Cell, Pune and  Dr. Daksha Shah, City TB Officer, Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai addressed the gathering and said they were very heartened to see the response. Dr. Reuben Swamickan, Sr. Advisor, Tuberculosis and Infectious Diseases, United States Agency for International Development and Ms. Kavita Ayyagari, Project Director-Challenge TB India also addressed the gathering about the need for multi-stakeholder engagement  and partnerships for TB.

Dr Padmaja S Keskar, Executive Health Officer, Public Health Department, Mumbai said, “No health program can be successful without the participation of public, and this is why we need corporates to come forward and adopt high-burden TB corridors and take on different tasks. The corporate sector has to join hands with the Municipal Corporation for Behaviour Change Communication.”

Dr Madhukar Pawar, Deputy State TB Officer, State TB Cell Pune, said “We welcome the fact that so many of you have shown interest in collaborating with the government and look forward to your partnership. We need your support in community engagement and increasing awareness on where to seek care and why it is important to complete treatment. While the government is making efforts to ensure free diagnosis and treatment reaches every patient, you can help complement our efforts and ensure they are aware and there is uptake of  these services.”

According to the revised estimates by the World Health Organization, there are about 2.8 million new cases of TB every year in India. The report also mentions that the number of TB related deaths have doubled in 2015. It is expected that this estimate will change after the completion of the national TB prevalence survey currently scheduled for 2017/2018. Although India met the 2015 Millennium Development Goals to reduce TB incidence, prevalence and mortality, much work remains to be done and intensified efforts are required by all stakeholders.

Sharing information about the initiatives that the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai has taken, Dr. Daksha Shah, City TB Officer, Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai said, “The corporates need to formulate programs and partnerships that have the End TB Goal in mind. To have a good engagement roadmap, the corporates can share their areas of interest with the Municipal Corporation for partnerships and quick action.”

Ms Kavita Ayyagari, The Union South East Asia Office, said, “TB is a disease that needs to be tackled on many fronts, and by numerous stakeholders coming together. Everyone has a role to play and  together we can make a big difference. From 2015 until now, we have had various  corporate partners  joining the ‘Call to Action for a TB-Free India’. It is  now our responsibility to take these commitments forward and ensure they get implemented on ground so we can reach every TB patient  and ensure complete treatment and care”.

Key highlights of the some of the commitments made by the corporate at the meeting:

Mr. Sanjiv Navangul, Managing Director, Johnson & Johnson Pvt. Ltd. said, “Our focus is on awareness, enhancing research and training. Globally, we are working to enhance research to reduce treatment time.  The Conditional Access Program (CAP) should be given priority and access needs to increase. We need to follow the model that South Africa has adopted for CAP.”

Throwing light upon the fact that Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and Larsen & Toubro have a history of 30 years for TB eradication, Ms. Mabel Abraham, Assistant General Manager, Corporate Social Initiatives, Larsen & Toubro said, “Initially, L&T was helping fill the gaps as they have a strong footprint within the communities. L&T is now working in the vulnerable wards of Mumbai and we would like to integrate TB initiatives in these programs so there can be intervention at the community level. Also, all corporates should take up internal social responsibility to address the occupational requirement of health, to create awareness and enhance diagnosis.”

Mr Deepak Arora, CEO, Essar Foundation stressed on workplace programs for TB eradication. He said, “Corporate sector has a definitive role; however, different companies have different roles. A company like ours, which has a large footprint in the country, can have an important role in reaching the  communities. Even if we start by creating modules that we share with the existing staff about diagnosis and treatment, it will create a great impact.”

Stressing on the importance of working on multiple aspects of TB, Mr. Abhijit Prabhughate, Manager (Program Research) Ambuja said, “Our organisation has been working with 11 states and 750 villages since 1993. Recently, Ambuja has concluded a large study on NCDs and have included TB as well. Ambuja is also collaborating with The Union for technical support in 10 locations in India for a TB program.”

Emphasizing on the importance of training Accredited social health activists (ASHA) workers for TB awareness and case findings, Mr. Vinayak Dalvi, CSR Head, Crompton Greaves said, “Crompton Greaves is working in 3 states and 50 villages in the area of maternal and child healthcare. We are working with the communities in Bhopal, Nashik and Maharashtra and can implement the TB program through this network. There is a need for cluster-based TB intervention.”

Venkat Rolla, Head CSR, Omkar Realtor and Developers Pvt. Ltd. said, “Omkar Foundation runs various programs for slum redevelopment in Mumbai. We have their details and can easily reach out to them for TB awareness. This roundtable should help create a platform for all corporates to share best practices.”