Tuberculosis is not just a medical disease: it also has a significant socio-economic impact on patients and their families. The cost of treatment and loss of livelihood due to TB can lead to catastrophic expenditure and put patients and families deeply into debt. While free treatment is critically important, the addition of socio-economic support can make an enormous difference to poor patients’ lives and livelihoods.
That’s why Project Axshya decided to intervene and initiated a process to link poor TB patients with social welfare schemes that can address their nutritional and economic needs â€“ and indirectly help them adhere to treatment and achieve recovery. The project developed a strategy which included reaching out to the needy TB patients and also working with the social welfare department to ensure that patients are linked with the suitable welfare schemes.
A number of bottlenecks were identified and addressed during this process:
In India, there are several welfare schemes that vary across states and districts. Although there are very few exclusive welfare schemes for TB patients, there are schemes for which TB patients are eligible. As a first step, the project team mapped the available welfare schemes to which a TB patient could be linked.
TB patients in general are not aware of social welfare schemes for nutritional and socio-economic support or medicine. This is where, the Axshya team played a major role by reaching out to TB patients with this information.
It is difficult and sometime impossible for patients to run around to different departments and arrange the necessary documents, such as income certification, medical certificates, etc. Consequently, the Axshya team assisted TB patients in preparing all these documents and facilitated the completion of the formalities at various levels of approval.
The project also advocated with the social welfare departments across the states and districts served by Axshya to prioritise TB patients for nutritional and other welfare schemes.
Through the above efforts, Axshya linked 218 TB patients with different government-sponsored social welfare schemes in the last half of 2015, providing them with much-needed monetary and/or nutritional support. Encouraged by this success, Axshya plans to connect more poor and deserving TB patients with social protection schemes in coming months.
Since this was the first time that a coordinated effort has been made to link needy TB patients to social welfare schemes, this intervention has generated significant interest. The success of the model has now encouraged Project Axshya staff in other districts and states to connect as many TB patients as possible with the existing schemes for nutrition and other support.
The government schemes and programmes that TB patients were eligible for â€“ and have now been connected with are: