India shoulders one quarter of the global burden for tuberculosis (TB) with 2.74 million active infections and 410,000 deaths annually. TB is a highly debilitating disease with severe social and economic implications for patients. While it cuts across classes, TB is widely known to be 5 times more common amongst the economically weak. This is best understood by the bi-directional relationship between poverty, undernutrition and tuberculosis. While the Government of India has made significant strides in increasing access to anti-TB drugs for free, much more needs to be done to provide social support to patients.
Guided by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, GHS undertook a study in 16 states of India to assess the kind of socio-economic support being provided to TB patients during the treatment period. These states were providing a variety of support including food-based nutrition packages, cash support and livelihood assistance, psychosocial support at the level of facility, community and family. We also attempted to capture patient perspectives on the kind of support being provided. Findings from this 6 month long study led to the creation of our report ‘State Initiatives on Patient Support Systems for TB Elimination in India’.
The report was released by the government on November 19 at a regional meeting of the Revised National TB Control Program by high-level program officials including the Additional Secretary and Director General of the TB program in India. Findings and recommendations from the report were acknowledged by state TB officials via their respective social media accounts. It led to greater conversation in the media on the need for holistically addressing patient needs. National and state TB programs will draw upon the insights from this report to introduce and scale up patient support systems best suited to the needs of the TB patients.read the report