Right to privacy, declining infant mortality, renewed fight against TB: India has a lot to look forward to in 2018

The seeds of many positive changes were sown in 2017 and could bring news to cheer Indians in 2018. The country stepped up its battle against tuberculosis and the number of those affected by the most widespread infectious disease in India may fall. The fall in infant and maternal mortality rates seen in 2017 may improve further over the new year. The government declared its intention take on the problem of scavenger deaths that hit 102 in 2017 by monitoring the problem more closely and penalising negligent contractors more severely. And the Supreme Court verdict on right to privacy could have an impact on how we look at many personal freedoms.

Govt’s renewed fight against TB, most widespread infectious disease in India

The government, in March 2017, increased its focus on tuberculosis (TB)–a preventable airborne infectious disease that killed 423,000 Indians in 2016–with the release of the National Strategic Plan for Elimination of Tuberculosis.

The plan is to reduce the incidence of TB from 217 new cases per 100,000 in 2015 to fewer than 44 new cases by 2025. As part of this plan, funding for TB prevention and care doubled from $280 million in 2016 to $525 million in 2017.

The government also changed the TB treatment drug regimen–from multiple drugs at a time to a single daily dose in a fixed dose combination. Daily doses are considered more effective than alternate day doses of several pills as recommended earlier by the government’s Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme.

The government also introduced flavoured fixed dose medicines for children, in 100 pilots across the country, according to this article in The Hindu.

Further, the government started rolling out universal drug sensitivity testing for all TB patients to detect drug resistance to rifampicin, the main anti-TB drug, as reported by The Hindu. This will be aided by the increase in the number of cartridge-based Nucleic Acid Amplification Test machines which help detect drug-resistant TB.

India has a long way to go in eliminating tuberculosis, new cases of which reduced to 2.7 million in 2016, down 3.57 percent from 2.8 million in 2015, according to data from the World Health Organisation.

To achieve its goal of TB elimination, India needs to reduce its incidence by 10 percent every year, as IndiaSpend reported in November 2017. For this, the government needs to include the private sector which treats at least half of the TB cases in the country. It also needs to improve treatment completion and cure rates through counselling, offer social support to TB patients, and actively find patients in high-risk communities.

 

Diksha Tarnekar

 

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