The inaugural meeting for the pilot phase of the Employer Led Model for Tuberculosis (TB) Prevention and Care in the tea gardens of Dibrugarh was held on November 8, 2017 in Dibrugarh. This was organized by REACH, a non-profit organization currently implementing the TB Call to Action Project in Assam, in partnership with the State TB Cell.
Speaking on the occasion, Laya Madduri, Deputy Commissioner, Dibrugarh, said, “I am glad to see that the idea of ELM is well received by the tea gardens in Dibrugarh. The implementation of ELM is very important because TB can affect anybody… I urge all the tea garden members to consider providing full TB related support to their employees”.
Through the ELM strategy, REACH aims to reach out to all formal, informal and migrant workforce for improved awareness about TB and link anyone with symptoms of TB to the public health system for diagnosis and treatment. Jadav Saikia, District Development Commissioner, Dibrugarh, who was also present, urged participants to join hands to eliminate TB. “TB is a potential threat to everyone. It is our social responsibility to eradicate TB. We extend full support of the district administration and expect the managers of all the tea gardens to come forward and participate in the implementation of ELM,” he said.
Dr. Udayan Barua, Joint Director Health Services of Dibrugarh, noted, “The tea communities are more vulnerable to TB because of poor nutrition and bad living conditions.” He appealed to the tea garden managers to spread awareness about TB and its treatment to their workers. Dr S N Misra, Consultant, REACH explained the ELM process, saying, “ELM is globally accepted as a best practice because employers have the power to reach those that even governments cannot sometimes reach.” “By piloting the ELM programme in the tea estates of Assam, we hope to demonstrate that employers can put in place a sustainable system to help reduce the burden of TB and provide their employees with access to free TB services within RNTCP”, said Smrity Kumar, Project Director, TB Call to Action, REACH, speaking from New Delhi.
A total of 37 tea garden stakeholders from Assam Branch of Indian Tea Association and Bharatiya Cha Parishad, Assam participated in the event. The two associations gave their commitment for the implementation of the Employer Led Model. Mrigendra Jalan, President, Bharatiya Cha Parishad, Assam, said, “We are ready to support the initiative as this will go a long way to help the community”. “The Assam Branch of Indian Tea Association extends its full support to REACH for the implementation of ELM”, said.
Rana Dey, Deputy Secretary, Zone – 1, Assam Branch of Indian Tea Association. Dr. Hiten Sonowal, District TB Officer, Dibrugarh; Dr. Basant Laskar, Head of Department for Pulmonary Medicine, Assam Medical College; Dr P. Bordoloi, IEC Officer, RNTCP Assam and Dr Purnananda Khaund, CMO, APPL & Senior Administrator RHRC, Amalgamated Plantations Pvt. Ltd, Assam also took part in the programme.
“The main reasons for TB in our tea gardens are over-crowding and inadequate direct involvement of state TB initiatives. In all the 1100 tea gardens of Assam, both organized and unorganized establishments exist. We need to put our best foot forward and adopt ELM for all employees“, said Dr Khaund, In the post-inaugural sessions, representatives from tea garden companies participated in technical sessions on TB-related issues, the TB context in Assam, the ELM process and the framework for action. A group discussion was conducted with the tea garden stakeholders to chart-out the implementation plan for ELM of TB care and prevention in tea gardens. Through the TBC2A project, REACH will prioritize two interconnected aspects of India’s response – strengthening and supporting the community response to TB and advocating for increased financial, intellectual and other resources for TB. The project is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).