Research on TB should be a national priority, say experts

‘Research and Academia Conclave: Towards a TB- Free India’ held at Mumbai recently discussed the role of universities and research institutions in TB prevention and care

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L to R: Ms Kavita Ayyagari, Project Director, Challenge TB Project, The Union; Dr Sunil Khaparde, DDG-TB, CTD, MoHFW; Dr Jamhoih (Jamie) Tonsing, Regional Director, The Union South East Asia Office (USEA); Mr Rajkumar S. Badole, Minister Social Justice and Special Assistance Department, Maharashtra; Dr N S Dharmshaktu, Special Director General, MoHFW; Prof Sudhir U. Meshram, Vice Chancellor, North Maharashtra University; Mr Xerses Sidhwa , Director - Health Office, USAID.

Mumbai: The Central TB division (CTD), Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, the North Maharashtra University (NMU) together with The International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) organized a research and academia conclave in the city. The discussion focussed on the need for more students to actively pursue scientific research in the quest for innovative and more effective tuberculosis interventions. The dimensions of this research will encompass various fields such as social sciences, economics, humanities and engineering.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Rajkumar S. Badole, Minister Social Justice and Special Assistance Department, Maharashtra said, “TB is not just a medical problem but it has several social ramifications. Families get broken due to the disease. Several children are forced into labour and TB patients, especially women and girls, face stigma.  Awareness is absolutely crucial. Social science research is required for us to be able to understand the challenges and find solutions. I am convinced that only if we work together, can we conquer TB. I appeal to all present here to come together to fight TB in India”

Prof Sudhir U. Meshram, Vice Chancellor, North Maharashtra University, said “This partnership is an excellent opportunity for us to strengthen our efforts in TB research, across various study fields such as social sciences, economics, humanities and engineering. The North Maharashtra University stands committed towards TB-Free India  and has already launched a programme in 5 adopted villages for TB awareness and screening in partnership with  CTD, The Union  and USAID.”

“This conclave is to explore the role of universities, and Research and academia in TB prevention and care. We expect that as a result of this, several universities, research institutions, civil society organizations and the government will come together to work for a TB-Free India. Today we had several productive discussions on the social aspects of TB in the country, the opportunities for TB research, the importance of data in TB research and how we can utilize this new knowledge to improve patient outcomes,” said Dr Sunil Khaparde, DDG TB, Central TB Division.

“USAID has been partnering with the Government of India for over 18 years to diagnose, prevent and treat TB in India and we have made substantial progress. Over 15 million patients have been treated and millions of lives have been saved. However, much more needs to be done as the government alone cannot achieve the targets. We need a multi-sectoral approach in which the public sector, private sector and academic and research institues work together to achieve these tangible goals. It is important for us to continue to search for new ideas and approaches keeping the TB patient and survivor at the forefront. We need to invest in research activities towards improving detection and treatment and look at how to address not just the disease but also its social aspects like stigma,” said Mr Xerses Sidhwa, Deputy Director – Health Office, USAID