Pillbox-cum-adherance support device launched for people with TB

Chennai, March 23: Ahead of World TB Day, STAMP, a new pillbox-cum-treatment adherence support system, was launched at a meeting organised by REACH, a city-based NGO which is partnering with the government’s TB control programme.

STAMP, an acronym for Support for Treatment Adherence and Medication Protocol, has been designed and manufactured by Sundaram Medical Devices (SMD), a Harvard Business School award winning startup based in Chennai. Patients can use the multi-function pillbox to dispense medication and assist them in completing their course of treatment successfully. 200 such devices were donated to REACH by the Sundaram Aaryogyam and Vitality Enhancement (SAVE) Foundation.

Speaking at the launch meeting, Mr N Krishnan, Managing Director of India Motor Parts and Accessories Limited (IMPAL), lauded the introduction of this device and said, “IMPAL is proud to have supported public health causes, including TB, for several years, much before the CSR funding law came into existence.”

These electronic medication dispensers (EMDs) have been in development since 2015 by SMD’s team of engineers guided by doctors and experts at REACH. The device is programmed to remind the patient to take their medicine and has graded alerts to the patient,putlockersfamily members and healthcare workers, if the patient forgets to take a dose. This helps TB patients adhere to the treatment and follow the drug regimen regularly. In addition to alerts, a secure live database on adherence is maintained for patient, doctor, and healthcare worker review and action.

At the launch event, Mr Krishna Mahesh, Director SMD said, “We wanted this to be a patient-friendly, supportive and non-intrusive device, as simple as pressing a button. That’s all people with TB should have to worry about. The technology itself should be invisible to them. We hope to make this device available globally for people affected by TB.”

Since treatment for TB lasts six to eight months, the need for following up with a person’s adherence is considered crucial to successful treatment completion. Without adhering to the treatment regimen, TB, a disease that kills around 1400 people in India everyday, cannot be cured and might develop drug resistance.

Dr Ramya Ananthakrishnan, Executive Director, REACH, said, “Treatment support mechanisms do exist but we wanted a device that would keep the needs of the patient front and centre. STAMP also helps our health workers optimize their time and become more efficient healthcare providers.”

The STAMP project was piloted with REACH, which has been working with tuberculosis in the private sector for the past two decades. It has been helping implement the government’s TB control programme in Chennai by engaging the private sector.

About the device

The pillbox unit first sounds an alarm at the time of taking medication. If medication is dispensed on time, a notification is send to the servers and the patient’s file is updated. If there is a delay of two hours in taking medication, a language appropriate SMS alert is sent to the patient’s mobile phone. If the delay reaches four hours, an automated voice reminder is sent to the patient’s mobile phone. After a delay of six hours, a family member whose mobile number is registered gets a reminder and after a delay of 8 hours, a healthcare worker is notified that the patient has missed the medication and further action can be initiated. These messages are available in four languages, the preference of which can be chosen by the patient at the time of registration.

Unique Employer Led Model (ELM) for TB care and prevention launched in Dibrugarh

Dibrugarh, November 8, 2017: The inaugural meeting for the pilot phase of the
Employer Led Model for Tuberculosis (TB) Prevention and Care in the tea
gardens of Dibrugarh was held earlier today. This was organized by REACH, a
non-profit organization currently implementing the TB Call to Action Project in
Assam, in partnership with the State TB Cell.
Speaking on the occasion, Smt. Laya Madduri, Deputy Commissioner, Dibrugarh,
said, “I am glad to see that the idea of ELM is well received by the tea gardens in
Dibrugarh. The implementation of ELM is very important because TB can affect
anybody… I urge all the tea garden members to consider providing full TBrelated
support to their employees”.
Through the ELM strategy, REACH aims to reach out to all formal, informal and
migrant workforce for improved awareness about TB and link anyone with
symptoms of TB to the public health system for diagnosis and treatment.
Shri Jadav Saikia, District Development Commissioner, Dibrugarh, who was also
present, urged participants to join hands to eliminate TB. “TB is a potential
threat to everyone. It is our social responsibility to eradicate TB. We extend full
support of the district administration and expect the managers of all the tea
gardens to come forward and participate in the implementation of ELM,” he said.
Dr. Udayan Barua, Joint Director Health Services of Dibrugarh, noted, “The tea
communities are more vulnerable to TB because of poor nutrition and bad living
conditions.” He appealed to the tea garden managers to spread awareness about
TB and its treatment to their workers.
Dr S N Misra, Consultant, REACH explained the ELM process, saying, “ELM is
globally accepted as a best practice because employers have the power to reach
those that even governments cannot sometimes reach.”
“By piloting the ELM programme in the tea estates of Assam, we hope to
demonstrate that employers can put in place a sustainable system to help reduce
the burden of TB and provide their employees with access to free TB services
within RNTCP”, said Ms Smrity Kumar, Project Director, TB Call to Action,
REACH, speaking from New Delhi.
A total of 37 tea garden stakeholders from Assam Branch of Indian Tea
Association and Bharatiya Cha Parishad, Assam participated in the event. The
two associations gave their commitment for the implementation of the Employer
Led Model.
Shri Mrigendra Jalan, President, Bharatiya Cha Parishad, Assam, said, “We are
ready to support the initiative as this will go a long way to help the community”.
“The Assam Branch of Indian Tea Association extends its full support to REACH
for the implementation of ELM”, said Shri Rana Dey, Deputy Secretary, Zone – 1,
Assam Branch of Indian Tea Association.
Dr. Hiten Sonowal, District TB Officer, Dibrugarh; Dr. Basant Laskar, Head of
Department for Pulmonary Medicine, Assam Medical College; Dr P. Bordoloi, IEC
Officer, RNTCP Assam and Dr Purnananda Khaund, CMO, APPL & Senior
Administrator RHRC, Amalgamated Plantations Pvt. Ltd, Assam also took part in
the programme.
“The main reasons for TB in our tea gardens are over-crowding and inadequate
direct involvement of state TB initiatives. In all the 1100 tea gardens of Assam,
both organized and unorganized establishments exist. We need to put our best
foot forward and adopt ELM for all employees“, said Dr Khaund.
In the post-inaugural sessions, representatives from tea garden companies
participated in technical sessions on TB-related issues, the TB context in Assam,
the ELM process and the framework for action. A group discussion was
conducted with the tea garden stakeholders to chart-out the implementation
plan for ELM of TB care and prevention in tea gardens.

Daily Regimen for TB launched in Jharkhand

Ranchi, October 17, 2017: “We are all gathered here today as the state of Jharkhand takes one big step towards our common goal of eliminating TB by 2025. Now, TB drugs will be given daily as against the earlier alternate day regimen. This is a great initiative by the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme and the Jharkhand state government, to make this treatment easier for all patients. The treatment is now simplified and we hope that this will be very successful,” said Shri Ramchandra Chandravanshi, Hon’ble Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Government of Jharkhand, at the launch of Daily Regimen for TB in Ranchi, Jharkhand on Tuesday, October 17.

Jharkhand will now begin providing daily treatment to those affected by TB, and the Health Minister administered drugs to three patients to kick off this new, improved regimen. The launch event was organised by the State TB Cell, Jharkhand, in partnership with REACH and with support from United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Speaking at the launch, Shri Sudhir Tripathy, Additional Chief Secretary, Health, Government of Jharkhand, said, “This is an important day for us because we are transitioning from one regimen to a better, more efficient one. TB is the biggest public health crisis that affects people in their most productive years. It would have been easier to digest the deaths caused due to TB if there was no treatment available, but it is curable and treatment is free. Even then, to see these numbers, shows our weakness. That is why this is a good opportunity, to launch such innovative ways to address this problem.”

The event also saw the official release of communications materials featuring Arjuna awardee Olympic archer Deepika Kumari. TB Ambassador Deepika Kumari lent her voice to the TB campaign through a series of video and audio messages as well as posters developed by REACH’s TB Call to Action project, with support from USAID. “Deepika Kumari’s message will now be showcased in every home and every village. I congratulate REACH for this very special work,” said Shri Chandravanshi while launching the campaign. “We are grateful to Deepika for her support and commitment as a TB Ambassador, and we are confident that through these messages, we can help improve awareness about TB, reduce stigma and connect people to TB services”, said Smrity Kumar, Project Director, REACH.

Jharkhand is the first state in the country to have a State Task Force on TB, which was set up earlier this year under the chairmanship of the Additional Chief Secretary. Congratulating Shri Tripathy and REACH for this unique achievement, the Hon’ble Health Minister said, “This is an unique initiative that brings together various departments to integrate TB into the mainstream. I request all of you present here to join hands for a TB-free Jharkhand.”

The event also saw representatives from the Jharkhand TB Cell as well as REACH and other development partners. Dr Rajkumar Beck, State TB Officer, addressed the gathering by sharing the state TB scenario while Dr Anindya Mitra, Training Officer, STDC, shared details about the new regimen.

REACH HOLDS 18TH ANNUAL GENERAL BODY MEETING

Chennai, Tamil Nadu: REACH held its 18th Annual General Body Meeting on September 21 at the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation.

The AGM began with a welcome address by Ms. Sheela Augustine, Deputy Program Director, REACH.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, former Rajya Sabha Member, renowned Agricultural Scientist and Chairman, REACH said, “REACH has come a long way from that first meeting I remember almost 20 years ago. There is still a lot of work to be done and involving the community is a priority to achieve TB control”.

Dr.P.R. Narayanan, Former Director, National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis, presided over the meeting as the special guest and acknowledged the achievements of REACH, particularly in demonstrating a model of private sector engagement.

Dr. Nalini Krishnan, Director, REACH thanked Dr M.S. Swaminathan and Dr. Narayanan for their guidance and support over the years.

Dr. Ramya Ananthakrishnan, Executive Director, REACH, presented an overview of the organization’s activities and key achievements in 2016-17. Following her presentation, members of the REACH team shared their experiences of working on various initiatives.

“It was a rich experience for me and my team to support patients and their families to go through the process of contact screening. We were able to counsel patients, educate them about TB, and provide them with symptom screening, X-Ray support and GeneXpert testing, if required. If TB was detected, we were able to guide them to start treatment at the TB unit,” said Ms. Juliet of the IMPACT initiative.

Mr. Joseph of EQUIP initiative is grateful to the private practitioners who are supporting the initiative, “we have so many memories of meeting new private practitioners for the EQUIP initiative, whose support has been vital in using the newer diagnosis, GeneXpert, thereby providing quality diagnosis and treatment to TB patients.”

“To think that REACH is now working in five states of India, in addition to Tamil Nadu, for TB care and prevention is a source of pride. We started in Chennai, moved out into the districts of Tamil Nadu through Axshya, and now have broadened our work to include other states as well. It’s been wonderful to see the welcome that REACH has received in other states through the Call to Action project,” said Ms. Anupama Srinivasan.

Mr. Anbarasan of the Pharmacy Initiative said, “Pharmacists are a difficult group to work with, as they have their business to manage, but once they are convinced and trained on their role, they start contributing to TB control.”

Some of the TB patients associated with REACH were also a part of the event. They shared their experiences of fighting TB with REACH’s support.

“I feel healthy now and am thankful to the team at Rotary Nanganallur Centre that has helped me overcome my fears and defeat TB,” said Mr. Kuppuswamy, a TB Survivor. Another TB Survivor, Mr. Venkatakrishnan, said, “I would like to acknowledge the support of my wife, who helped me in my battle against TB. I also remember the care provided by the REACH team that always made sure that I was taking my TB tablets and would visit me so many times when I was not well. A person’s life has meaning only when they help others, and I congratulate REACH for their work in TB care.”

Ms. Amrita Limbu, an MDR-TB survivor and now an activist, talked about her journey. “I am an MDR-TB survivor. TB made me strong and I wanted to support others in the society. Therefore, I am happy to help other patients,” she said.

The meeting was followed by the launch of the REACH Annual Report 2016-17 by Dr. M.S. Swaminathan. A special memento was presented to Dr. M.S. Swaminathan for his guidance and support to REACH over the years.

Dr. Sivamurugan, President, Ms. Suraksha Giri, Secretary, Mr. K Ravi and other committee members took part in the meeting.

“The journey has been wonderful and we have been able to show good work. With the dedication and hard work of the REACH team, we can move towards our vision of a TB-free society,” said Dr. Sivamurugan, President, REACH.

Members of the REACH staff were also awarded and honoured for their dedication and service through the years. Ms.  Nalini. K, Ms. Deenathayabari, Ms. Mangaiyarkarasi, Mr. Joseph, Ms. Shanthi, Mr.Ganesh. M, Ms. Kalpana and Ms. Rajalakshmi were given recognition for their work.

Call for Applications: Capacity-Building Workshop for TB Survivors

REACH invites applications for its Capacity-Building Workshops for TB Survivors to be held in three Indian states -Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha.

TB Survivors from these states are requested to send in their applications on or before October 3, 2017

For more information, please refer to the application forms attached below.

Download the application form for Bihar (Hindi) here.

Download the application form for Jharkhand (Hindi) here.

Download the application form for Odisha (Oriya) here.

Hon’ble Governor Launches TB Call to Action project in Assam

Guwahati, August 24, 2017: “TB requires urgent attention and it is necessary to involve local governments, corporates and those personally affected by TB, for a meaningful contribution to this national cause,” said Hon’ble Governor of Assam Shri Banwarilal Purohit, while speaking at the launch of the TB Call to Action (TBC2A) Project in Assam.

Shri Purohit was the Chief Guest at the launch event of the TBC2A project, implemented by the Resource Group for Education and Advocacy for Community Health (REACH) with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The project seeks to amplify and support India’s response to TB by involving previously unengaged stakeholders and broadening the conversation around the disease.

Narrating a personal experience, the Hon’ble Governor said, “Back in the 1950s, when I was 10, my uncle was diagnosed with TB and the environment in the house was morose, as if there was no hope. Jewellery was pawned, we saved money and he was sent off to a sanatorium for six months. More than 30 people from our village went to see him off at the border because most believed he wouldn’t ever come back. That was the scenario back then. But today, it is different. TB is entirely curable, early identification is all it takes. Since the commitment of the Government of India is now on record, it should become that much easier for us to realize the dream of a TB-free Assam by 2025.”

Through the TBC2A project, REACH will prioritize two interconnected aspects of India’s response – strengthening and supporting the community response to TB and advocating for increased financial, intellectual and other resources for TB. “If we don’t unite now, the TB scenario will become worse than it is. With initiatives like ELM in tea gardens, we will get an opportunity to reach the unreached,” said Dr Achyut Baishya, Executive Director, National Health Mission, Assam.

The launch event was preceded by a consultative meeting on Employer Led Model (ELM) for TB Care and Prevention, which brought together senior representatives from tea garden associations to discuss the need for industries and corporates to work towards the welfare of their employees. Explaining the proposed ELM initiative, Dr SN Misra, Consultant, REACH, said, “ELM is globally accepted as a best practice because employers have the power to reach those that even governments cannot sometimes reach.”

Participating in the launch, Dr Amar Shah, Project Management Specialist, Health Office, USAID/India, said, “We must all work together to successfully turn the tide on TB. USAID is working hand-in-hand with the Assam government, healthcare professionals, corporate organizations, patients and survivors, to foster an environment that supports TB patients and moves us toward a TB-free India.”

Presenting an overview of the TB Call to Action project, Ms Smrity Kumar, Project Director, outlined priorities for Assam, including engaging elected representatives, involving private pharmacies, strengthening the community response and inter-sectoral coordination for a comprehensive response to TB.

‘Touched by TB’ – the coalition of TB people in India formed

New Delhi, 2017: During the Regional Capacity-Building Workshop for TB Survivors, participants from India held several discussions on the urgent need for a network or coalition of those affected by TB. This has since resulted in the formation of Touched by TB-The Coalition of TB People in India.

At the first ‘official’ meeting held on the last day of the workshop, the group identified national coordinators as well as regional focal points. In keeping with their self-identified mandate to support the TB programme in India, they agreed on several key objectives including creating and sustaining a coordinated and capacitated national coalition; ensuring treatment literacy and awareness for people living with TB; advocating for acceptable, accessible, compassionate, comprehensive, rights-based services; and networking with and support the Ministry of Health and the RNTCP and its partners to achieve the goal of ending TB in India by 2025.