Tuberculosis (TB)
Representative image, credit: M3india.in

Not just through the political lens, the elected representatives have been appealed to see things, specifically the health sector, though the lenses of compassion and empathy.

REACH, an NGO dedicated to the fight against Tuberculosis (TB) in the country through the TB Call to Action project with the support of USAID (United States Agency International Development), and the State TB Cell are making a pitch to the elected representatives of Assam for playing a crucial role in raising the profile of TB in the State and ensuring that the disease gets utmost priority.

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal recently chaired a first-of-its-kind roundtable on TB in the State, which was organized jointly by REACH and Assam Health and Family Welfare Department, where he made a clarion call to the MLAs to engage actively in the TB elimination mission on the lines of PM Narendra Modi’s call for TB-free India by 2025 during the ‘End TB Summit 2018’.

As part of the initiative to end TB, the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP) and Central TB division are encouraging participation of stakeholders including MLAs, Panchayat members and other elected representatives both at the constituency and community levels.

The Chief Minister also called upon the civil society representatives to engage school students in spreading awareness on TB and countering stigma.

Altogether, 25 MLAs attended the round table along with Assam Legislative Assembly Speaker Hitendra Nath Goswami and Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Pijush Hazarika.

An action plan—jointly developed by the State TB cell and REACH—to engage the elected representatives in TB response will soon be submitted to the Assam government.

The action plan will aim at building political will among the MLAs and effective implementation of the people-centric TB programmes, including access to diagnosis, treatment and after-care services for those affected by TB in Assam.

Underling that the involvement of the legislators through micro-level activities can trigger a change in the health sector, State Coordinator of REACH, Arup Joyti Kalita said, “Presently, REACH and State TB cell are working together to involve the elected representatives across Assam in TB response. Such engagement at the political level is vital in accelerating progress and reach for TB elimination effort in the State”.

He further said advocacy of a few MLAs have been making a positive impact.

One such member is MLA Sanjay Kishan of Tinsukia district who has been keenly involved in addressing TB under the Employer Led Model (ELM) for TB prevention and care in the tea gardens of his constituency.

Kishan said under his leadership employers of many tea gardens have agreed to roll out the ELM model, ensuring detection, treatment and care of their employees suffering from this respiratory malady.

His efforts are significant as a large section of state’s population that works in tea gardens across Assam is vulnerable to TB.

According to the Annual Status Report of TB India 2018, out of the total 40,174 cases of TB in Assam over 36,720 cases of TB were notified from the public sector in 2017 in Assam with an additional 3,454 cases from the private sector.

With the formation of this ‘State-Level MLA Forum’ for TB in Assam, the State is expected to make headway with the aid of this influential group in TB response.

The formation of the forum under the leadership of the Chief Minister will help in drawing attention of the legislators towards TB for positive change and policy-level impact at the constituency and State level.

Manashree Goswami

Manashree Goswami is a journalist based in Guwahati. She can be reached at manashree.oct@gmail.com

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