OpASHA’s founders, Sandeep Ahuja and Dr. Shelly Batra, evaluated several different public health issues in India including AIDS/HIV, malaria and sanitation before focusing on tuberculosis. TB affects more people in India than any other disease, but receives fewer resources for treatment and awareness than AIDS/HIV.
TB is highly infectious. Once a patient is treated, that spread halts. The most significant battle in eliminating TB is preventing it, not just treating it. Another reason to treat TB, especially in India, is the support we receive from the Government of India. Medicines, diagnostic services, and physician consultations are provided for free in India, and by other governments in high-burden tuberculosis countries. The free services and cost-effectiveness of our model ensure that the donor’s dollar is used for the patients’ most critical needs, including education, awareness, prevention, and establishing treatment centers where communities previously lacked access to reliable, high-quality TB treatment.
Tuberculosis treatment has massive economic benefits to both the patients and the national economy.
“Poverty is both a cause and a devastating outcome of TB. Ongoing poverty reduction programs… must also include reducing TB”, state Jackson and colleagues in International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases (2006 Oct;10(10):1104-10).
A person cured of TB earns an additional $150 every year. The additional income has a trickle-down effect. The cured patient’s children have a parent who can provide better nutrition and send them to school. 300,000 children in India are thrown out, or forced to leave school due to financial constraints when a parent is diagnosed with tuberculosis. For every parent cured of tuberculosis, a child can return to school and continue their education. We also provide counseling and financial compensation to children to persuade them to return to school in the event that their income is crucial to the household’s welfare. The Indian economy saves nearly $11,500 in medical expenses every time OpASHA treats a patient.
In a nutshell, preventing and treating tuberculosis is a win-win solution for the patient, family, community, nation and the world.