The Union’s Project Axshya has reached over 100,000 people with information, counselling and advice on tuberculosis (TB) through their TB Helpline, operating in six states throughout India. The service, launched in March 2014, provides easily accessible information 12 hours a day in regional languages to anyone with a telephone.
As mobile phones become increasingly common in India and prices for smartphones fall, helplines provide a simple and innovative method to increase access to information without requiring the person to travel â€“ sometimes very long distances – to clinics for a consultation.
Callers reach out for information on treatment, side-effects of medication, advice on how to support or care for a sick family member, what to do in the case of a missed dose, and to find out if they should seek TB testing. The helpline operators ask callers a series of questions to determine if they should be tested for TB, and also advise callers on where to access diagnostic services, treatment and care. When necessary, they link callers with the nearest microscopy centre for testing.
Delayed diagnosis of TB and incomplete treatment are some of the main difficulties in stopping the spread of the disease, and facilitating access to this information is an effective method to catch cases early and increase awareness about TB while spreading knowledge of accurate information.
Following the success of the TB helpline, the Government of India is now sponsoring the service in three states. The helpline has also set up a missed call system, in which patients can call a toll-free number and hang up, and receive a call back from a helpline associate, therefore giving free access to the service. The helpline will also send addresses of microscopy centres to callers via SMS to ensure callers get the correct information even when calling from an unstable line.
The helpline is one of many innovative solutions The Union’s Project Axshya is implementing in India in an effort to facilitate the flow of TB information and reach a wider network.
Project Axshya is implemented through The Union South-East Asia Office and focuses on advocacy, communication and social mobilisation in India. It aims to improve access to quality TB care and control through a partnership between government and civil society with funding from the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.