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Health

Published on: April 29, 2022, 2:24 p.m.
Be the change, J&J's prescription to eliminate TB
  • Ranade: engaging young people to drive health-seeking behaviour

By Lancelot Joseph. Executive Editor, Business India

Tuberculosis (TB) in India is a major health problem accounting for 26 per cent of the entire world’s TB patients. More than 1,300 people die every day from TB in our country, even though TB is a curable disease and treatment is available free of cost for all citizens. To revamp the efforts to fight against TB, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has launched a youth focused awareness campaign – Be the Change for TB – on this World TB Day (24 March, 2022).

This campaign is under the Corporate TB Pledge – a joint initiative between Central TB Division, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to galvanise corporate support for the elimination of tuberculosis by 2025.

“The primary objective of the campaign is to create a cadre of Youth Changemakers (CMs), who can help enhance awareness, improve health seeking behaviour in communities and help in finding missing TB patients. To enable this, Actor Vaani Kapoor will be the face of the campaign along with rap music artist Kaam Bhaari; they have joined the campaign to motivate the youth of the country and inspire them to join the fight against TB.

As part of the association, an exciting rap video song by Kaam Bhaari has also been shot featuring Vaani Kapoor. The song will be launched along with the campaign,” explains Sarthak Ranade, MD, Janssen India who oversees the company’s operations in India and the South Asian markets of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh & Nepal. Ranade is a member of the J&J India President Council, as well as the Janssen Asia Pacific Leadership Team. 

“As part of a comprehensive effort, in 2018, we launched a 10-year TB initiative aimed at driving progress towards the global target of ending the TB epidemic by 2030. India is, and will continue to be, one of the primary beneficiaries of these efforts,” adds Ranade who has initiated a programme around three key pillars.

“We have taken and continue to take proactive steps to support the Indian government’s work to accelerate sustainable patient access to bedaquiline, the first new TB treatment to be made available in India in almost 50 years. In addition to expanding access to treatment, we are working with local governments, NGOs and partners to support global efforts to help find the ‘missing millions’ of undiagnosed cases of TB, including by training health workers on the clinical management of TB and DR-TB and raising awareness about TB at the community level. Further, we are accelerating the discovery and development of next generation TB treatments that will be urgently needed if we are to achieve the global target of ending the TB pandemic by 2030.”

Additionally, the MTV Staying Alive Foundation will be expanding on the success of MTV Nishedh, a youth-focused ‘edutainment’ campaign in India, which was supported through an educational grant from us (J&J). Nivi’s askNivi chatbot will be deployed, providing young people in India with information on TB, such as the signs and symptoms of the disease, facts to debunk common myths and individualised recommendations to seek geo-referenced care for those affected by TB.

  • In 2012, J&J introduced the first novel TB medicine in more than 40 years, which is now recommended by WHO as a core component of all-oral DR-TB treatment regimens

 “We are focused on supporting and engaging young people to drive health-seeking behaviour, build community awareness and reduce stigma in order to enhance early diagnosis of TB, and ultimately, help encourage people with the disease to seek the care and treatment they need,” says Ranade who in the first year, aims to reach up to 40 million young people in India across the targeted eight cities of the launch.

According to the India TB report 2021, 15-30-year-olds shoulder ~38 per cent of the TB burden of the country. When an individual registers to be a TB Changemaker, he/she will be engaged through online and in-person activities to create awareness and encourage early health-seeking care. “Our campaign will help motivate the young citizens to engage and work with states and district health departments and programmes while also developing creative messages and interesting ways to disseminate verified information around TB,” observes Ranade.

Collaboration is essential to maximise the impact of these programmes and drive new learnings. To that end, J&J is convening some of the critical players across TB, youth services and global health to advance solutions to more efficiently engage and activate youth in the fight against TB and share best practices. The Covid-19 pandemic has only strengthened J&J’s resolve to tackle this disease, once and for all.

In 2012, J&J introduced the first novel TB medicine in more than 40 years, which is now recommended by WHO as a core component of all-oral DR-TB treatment regimens. Since then, they have worked collaboratively to facilitate access to the medicine around the world, including through the Stop TB Partnership’s Global Drug Facility, where it is available to more than 130 low- and middle-income countries, including India, while also safeguarding its long-term effectiveness. To date, they have provided more than 470,000 courses of treatment to 153 countries, including the 30 countries with the highest burden of DR-TB.

“We are also working to advance R&D for the next generation of TB drugs and regimens as a member of the PAN-TB and UNITE4TB collaborations and the AMR Action Fund, in addition to research in our own labs,” sums up Ranade.

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