"We wish to make 2021 the year of tuberculosis," he said as he chaired a high-level meeting with senior officials of the Union Health Ministry and other development partners to launch a Jan Andolan against tuberculosis involving Advocacy, Communication and Social Mobilization (ACSM).
Vardhan outlined the various steps taken by Government of India under the National Tuberculosis Elimination Programme (NTEP) in combating the disease backed by bold commitments of both affirmative action and resources, a Health Ministry statement said.
The minister underscored the importance of newer approaches to tackle the disease and the need for a sustained focus to achieve the target of a TB-free India.
"While the NTEP continues to augment efforts to further strengthen TB management and service delivery, it is only when the wider population uses the essence of democracy and the spirit of Jan Andolan through generation of awareness, encouragement of healthcare seeking behaviour within their communities, and de-stigmatization of TB, would the movement against the disease be a success," he said.
He highlighted the importance of reaching the maximum population quickly, ensuring full participation and cooperation of communities and community-based groups in various stages of TB response as the foundational pillars of his brainchild movement, the statement said.
Drawing inspiration from lessons in COVID-19 management, where India has not only successfully dealt with the pandemic, Vardhan said, "The pandemic has brought the focus back on the role of focused and rigorous messaging in creating an appetite for accurate information and appropriate behaviours and hygiene practices."
"Similar nationwide messaging on TB symptoms can drive notification levels up and build awareness on the precautionary behaviour related to control of TB infection in the country," he said.
He recollected steps taken by him as Delhi''s health minister in generating awareness against polio which involved the participation of neighbourhood chemist shops.
He chaired deliberations on a National Technical Support Unit (NTSU) that is proposed to be set up in collaboration with development partners to support Government of India''s efforts, both nationally and in states, to help strengthen on-ground program delivery by employing various advocacy and communications approaches to generate demand and create awareness on the services available under the TB program, the statement said.
Development partners attending the event communicated the impact of their work in the past few years and shared their plans to support the proposed Jan Andolan.