Fact Check

What ‘The Hindu’ Missed in the Global Tuberculosis Report

The Hindu editorial “The war on TB”, published November 2, 2017, talks about the findings of the World Health Organisation’s Global Tuberculosis Report, 2017. It calls the drop in the number of new TB cases and TB-related cases a marginal drop. While it calls the current surveillance systems inadequate, it does not really engage specifically with the schemes that are in place for countering tuberculosis.

The Report Findings Mentioned

While there is no refuting that the highest incidence of TB and TB-related deaths are in India, the findings of the WHO report show that the efforts taken to counter TB have shown results.

According to the report, the number of estimated new cases has come down from 2.84 million new cases in 2015 to 2.79 million in 2016.

The number of TB cases has always been historically high in India. Therefore, it may not be correct to call such a drop marginal. Moreover, the total mortality due to TB was 0.51 million in 2015, but in 2016, the number of deaths because of tuberculosis was down to 0.43 million — a reduction of about 15%. This does not seem to be a small reduction by any measure.

What The Hindu Missed

There are many aspects of the report that The Hindu seems to have missed. The report noted that India has almost tripled its budget for tuberculosis prevention, control and treatment programme as compared to last year. India’s budget to control TB has increased from $124 million in 2016 to $387 million now.
The editorial hardly talks about the Revised National Tuberculosis Programme (RNTCP), the scheme which has been taken up with the target to eliminate tuberculosis in the country by 2025.

It is worth noting that, in 2016, only 38% of the total budget for the programme came from domestic sources while 62% came from international sources. The report notes that in 2017, the budget from domestic sources almost tripled from $124 million in 2016 to $387 million in 2017. This accounts for 74% of the budget now, and only 26% of the budget comes from international sources now. The report, in fact, lauds the efforts of the Prime Minister for this budgetary increase.

Other initiatives worth noting which have been taken up to eradicate TB are the following:

  • The National Strategic Plan for TB Elimination (2017-2025) has been launched with an aim to eliminate TB by the year 2025.
  • E-Nikshay, a web-based solution has been launched by the National Informatics Centre (NIC) for the monitoring of TB patients. The platform has been made user-friendly so that private doctors find it easy to notify.
  • Under the RNTCP, newer molecular diagnostics for TB are being integrated in the health system (CBNAAT) for early diagnosis of Multi-Drug Resistant (MDR) TB.
  • More than 500 CBNAAT machines have been rolled out in one year, offering rapid quality diagnostics, which has led to a rise in the Drug Resistant TB case notification in 2016.

It seems that while India still has a battle against TB, the reality pertaining to the disease has changed much and continues to improve. A lot of state action can be seen to be actively contributing to this trend. Therefore, The Hindu’s take on TB in India appears to be incomplete and the editorial would have done both itself and its readers a favour by fully accounting for all that the global report on TB has to say.