Dr Manoj Jain writes about how the Satyamev Jayate episode on tuberculosis has created more awareness and helped in TB education
When I was about 10 years old, our family immigrated to America. However, since then, for the past 40 years, I have been coming back to India nearly every year. First it was to visit relatives, and then to work in the villages on a soybean nutrition project, and then to learn and care for patients at medical schools like AIIMS and CMC Vellore.
During my volunteer work in India, one health statistic deeply troubled me, especially as a doctor trained in the specialty of infectious disease. 1000 people die each day in India from tuberculosis, a disease that is 100% preventable and curable. Having seen TB deaths nearly eliminated in the United States, I wondered if we could do the same in India.
So in my hometown of Indore, with local medical college professors like Dr. Salil Bhargava, we formed a nonprofit organization, Collaboration for Elimination of TB from India (CETI). We aligned with the government’s TB programme and with the local Rotary Club. We were even awarded a Rotary Global Grant for TB elimination in a joint effort with former Rotary Governor Suresh Kasliwal.
Yet, over the past several years, in our efforts to increase awareness about TB, we met a great deal of resistance. The well-to-do said, “TB is not our problem.” The poor often did not know the symptoms of TB, like low-grade fever and cough for over two weeks.
This year, however, things were dramatically different. As soon as I started telling people about TB, they asked me, “Did you see Aamir Khan’s Satyamev Jayate episode on TB?” – Even in America many of my friends had seen the episodes on the show’s website, www.satyamevjayate.in, and sent me the link.
Wow! I never thought a TV programme could have such an impact on raising awareness about TB. So from November 10–14, when we conducted our scheduled TB education programs in Madhya Pradesh’s districts of Indore, Barwani, Dewas, Ujjain and Bhopal, we began our conversation with “What did we learn from Satyamev Jayate?” Svati Bhatkal, the Co-Director and Head of Field Research of Satyamev Jayate, joined doctors, health workers, NGOs, and Rotarians on a conference call.
Now, we are planning to expand our program. Our team met with government officials in Nirman Bhavan in Delhi and strategized how to “hard-wire” and then “scale up” the relationship between Rotary and the Government of India so that TB awareness work can be spread to every district in India.
With ongoing support from the media and efforts from NGOs like Rotary, just as polio was eliminated from India, I’m optimistic that we too can eliminate deaths from TB in India within our lifetime.
Dr Manoj Jain is an infectious disease physician, a writer, and a national leader in healthcare quality improvement. Watch a video on the TB burden in India made by Dr Jain and his daughter here .