As per the statistics collected by the government’s Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP) each year, 12 lakh Indians are diagnosed with TB every year. In addition, at least 2.7 lakh Indians die annually as a result of TB. While it is a disease that can affect any age, caste or class, children comprise 40 percent of the affected population. However, due to a lack of awareness and necessary health facilities, most cases remain under-diagnosed in India.
As a part of the awareness campaign leading up to World TB Day on Thursday, the auto rickshaws of Mumbai joined hands with the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (BMC). Around 20,000 rickshaws plying in the city will carry Amitabh Bachchan’s famous anti-TB messages as per the announcement that was made by BMC at a press conference on March 19, Saturday.
“We studied people’s response to the advertisements and found that 99 million people had watched Amitabh Bachchan’s video ad on YouTube and another 25 million were reached through newspaper ads,” said BMC’s additional municipal commissioner (health) Sanjay Deshmukh, explaining the logic behind their decision to make Mr. Bachchan the ambassador for their anti-TB awareness programmes. Over the past one year, however, the move seems to have made a visible difference.
In 2015, the TB Harega Desh Jitega campaign was launched. The PSA showed Bachchan who narrated his own experience battling tuberculosis. BEST buses and suburban railway trains carried the actor’s appeal that people should get themselves checked for TB if their cough doesn’t go away within two weeks. “Awareness is the key to better TB control,” said Deshmukh.
And now, they have roped in auto rickshaw unions to carry the Bachchan-branded anti-TB message. In the first phase, 20,000 rickshaws were branded with the anti-TB stickers, and they hope to increase the number in the coming months. They have also joined hands with BEST drivers and conductors. Since Tuesday morning, 21,000 BEST drivers and conductors on duty have been wearing badges that spread the message about TB. BEST will also conduct health camps this week at depots and other places.
The BMC also announced that over 41,000 patients were being treated for the disease in Mumbai in 2015. The cause for the increase in cases has been attributed to the increase in diagnostic facilities and the roping in of private practitioners into the BMC’s programme. In the next few months, the city will get four more GeneXpert machines that can detect drug-resistant TB within two hours, taking the total count to 28.
TB is a big killer in India, but so is malaria and other diseases. If this campaign achieves its purpose, perhaps the government should look at implementing similar initiatives for other diseases too.