Mobile App launched to digitally strengthen fight against TB in Himachal Pradesh (India)

With more mobile connections (8.4 billion) than human population, it is indeed wise to optimally tap the potential of information and communication technologies to bolster public health campaigns. However, electronic health (eHealth) and mobile health (mHealth) technologies are yet to be fully utilized in global health.

A recent ray of hope comes from Himachal Pradesh state of India where drive to eliminate the biggest infectious disease killer on the planet, tuberculosis (TB), is tapping on the mHealth technology.

Vipin Singh Parmar, Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Himachal Pradesh state of India, had launched the “TB Mukt Himachal App” ('Mukt' is a Hindi language word meaning ‘free’) last week. The launch happened from a remote village (Malag) in Kangra region of the state, underlining the penetration of mobile technologies in remote areas as well. The TB Mukt Himachal app is in sync with the Digital India initiative of the Government of India. This mobile App was conceived by team Kangra, and developed by E-Tech services Private Ltd, a Gurugram based company, informed Dr Rajesh Sood, District TB Officer and a noted public health leader.

“Anyone can easily download this app free of charge from Google PlayStore. Himachal Pradesh is the first state of India to raise awareness about TB disease through such app” said Dr RK Sood.

He stated that through this TB Mukt Himachal mobile app, any individual can assess the risk factors associated with TB and can also access details of all TB test facilities such as molecular diagnostic tests (Cartridge based nucleic acid amplification test or CBNAAT) or designated microscopy centres (DMCs). All contact details of TB test facilities have been provided along with their GPS location. The contact details of all TB state, district, block level officers are also listed. The TB Mukt Himachal mobile App also has an informative section that provides awareness and education on issues like TB, symptoms of TB, diagnosis, management and other information related to TB control and care. There is a separate section for volunteers and health professionals to register and join the fight against TB.

In 2018, Himachal Pradesh’s Department of Health had diagnosed 16000 new TB cases in the government sector by examining more than 1 million presumptive cases of TB through sputum microscopy. Himachal Pradesh has one of the highest TB disease testing rates in India. Health department of Himachal Pradesh tests 1400 individuals per million population with sputum microscopy, while the country has an average of 800 tests per million population. Himachal Pradesh has high screening, so this yields more cases, he stated.

Himachal Pradesh has launched a state-wide intensified campaign to end TB in the state by 2021, 4 years before the national target for TB elimination (2025). For TB control, the central government has a national program, but Himachal Pradesh state health department has a special plan with the aim to eliminate the disease "Mukhaymantri Kshay Rog Nivaran Yojna" (Chief Minister’s TB Elimination Plan). To achieve the target of "TB Free Himachal Pradesh 2021", the first step is to make all local self-government units (panchayats) TB free. Himachal Pradesh department of health is sensitizing the Pradhan, Vice Pradhan and Gram Panchayat secretaries in each health segment under the TB-free Himachal Pradesh campaign.

During the TB free campaign (TB Mukt Abhiyan), the fight against TB is evolving from medical to social movement in Himachal Pradesh. “TB forums and Zila Kshay Rog Unmoolan Samitis” (District TB Elimination Committees) have been constituted. To catalyze this inter-sectoral movement further, the campaign will involve all stakeholders in the TB fortnight from 10-24 March (World TB Day is 24 March 2019).

Dr RK Baria, State TB Officer of Himachal Pradesh, said that providing adequate nutrition support to patients is acknowledged as a key component of India’s ambitious plan to eliminate TB. Under the ambitious Nikshay Poshan Yojna scheme, nutritional support enabler of Rs 500 per month is being given to TB patients through Adhaar-linked Direct Bank Transfer (DBT), which is not dependent on income status. By way of conditional cash transfer through direct benefit transfers, the scheme is also expected to help meet the out-of-pocket expenses of TB patients and mobilise patients for completion of their treatment. So far around 13,000 TB patients have been given a direct benefit of INR 24 million in Himachal Pradesh.

CNS (Citizen News Service)