In the run-up to World TB Day on 24 March, the REACH Lilly MDR-TB Partnership Media Awards 2014 were presented in New Delhi, to recognize outstanding and responsible reporting on tuberculosis (TB). The awards were presented by Dr RS Gupta, Deputy Director General (TB), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr Gupta said that India had made a lot of progress in the fight against TB but some challenges remained. “All of us must work together to ensure that those with TB are aware of the free services for TB diagnosis and treatment that are available in the public sector. Instead patients go to the private sector and end up spending a lot of money that they cannot afford”, he said.
Childhood tuberculosis, a reemerging threat in India, was the focus of the evening, with a keynote address on the issue by Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Director, National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis, Chennai. Observing that India still does not know the true burden of childhood TB in the country, Dr Swaminathan said, “We need to improve the diagnostic facilities that are available for children. We also need better drugs and drug combinations for treating drug-resistant tuberculosis in children, especially when they are malnourished.” A publication on childhood TB featuring a series of articles on the issue by Dr R Prasad, National Media Fellow, was released on the occasion.
In the English category, the joint winners were Guwahati-based journalist Bijoyeta Das for her powerful account “India losing the battle against TB?” published in Al Jazeera and Sumitra Deb Roy of The Times of India for her discerning and lucid presentation of scientific data in her story titled “Study: Drug-resistant TB in city air, families clear yet kids infected?”.
The award in the Local Language category went to Mr Reji Joseph of Rashtra Deepika, a Malayalam daily, for his meticulously researched story on migration in Kerala. There was a tie for the second place between Mukesh Kumar Kejariwal of Dainik Jagran for his balanced and candid analysis of India’s response to MDR-TB and Ranjith Chathoth of Mathrubhumi Arogyamasika for his wide-ranging account on the links between TB and diabetes.
This year, over 60 entries were received from across India. All entries were evaluated by a distinguished jury including Dr P R Narayan, Former Director, Tuberculosis Research Centre (now NIRT); Dr. Nevin Wilson, former Director, The Union, South East Asia; Dr V Kumaraswami, Scientist G (Retd), Tuberculosis Research Centre (now NIRT); Dr. Jaya Shreedhar, journalist & health communications consultant; Mr Chapal Mehra, Senior Director, Global Health Strategies and Ms Shobha Shukla, Managing Editor, Citizen News Service (CNS).
Mr Edgard A Olaizola Story, Managing Director, Lilly India said to Citizen News Service (CNS): “I congratulate the winners of the fifth edition of these awards. The media plays a crucial role in educating masses about this daunting disease and it becomes imperative to reward their valuable contribution to this fight. At Lilly, we believe that TB and MDR-TB are major health concerns that cannot be solved alone and we are therefore working closely with various stakeholders including media professionals to address the challenges and barriers to its control”.
“The REACH Lilly MDR-TB Partnership Media Initiative, now in its fifth year, aims to improve the quality and frequency of reporting on TB, and create role models for young journalists interested in reporting on key health issues such as TB”, said Dr Nalini Krishnan, Director of REACH.