India achieved the WHO benchmark of elimination of leprosy as a public health problem in 2005 by bringing down the prevalence rate to less than one case per 10,000 population. In the decade that followed there was stagnation in number of cases on record and the number of new cases being detected per year; however the visible deformity due to Leprosy was rising. These trends indicate that large quanta of undetected cases are there in the community and transmission of the disease is continued.
This has caused immense concern in the Ministry, which has taken several strong steps to bring this number down significantly, some of them being Leprosy Case Detection Campaign (LCDC) and awareness generation campaign “SPARSH”. Today medical and communication technology advancements make a Leprosy Free India imminently achievable.
The government and the ministry have reasserted their determination to push for the last mile in making Leprosy Free India.
There are many stakeholders involved in the elimination of leprosy. The combined synergies of all them (the leprosy affected, the volunteers Accredited Social Heath Activists (ASHAs) and MPWs, the doctors at the PHC, the district and state level Leprosy Officers, the state health Minister and secretary, the Minister and the Health Ministry at the national level, the WHO and other international bodies such as ILEP, NGO and civil society organizations) working in their respective fields towards this common goal, can make this push for the last mile an achievable reality.
In the recent past, several initiatives have been undertaken to fortify efforts towards elimination of leprosy as under:
Implementation of Leprosy Case Detection Campaign. In order to supplement the efforts of the state and eliminate leprosy from high endemic areas, Leprosy Case Detection Campaign (LCDC), in line with pulse polio campaign, was initiated in high endemic districts. During LCDC of 2016, which was launched in 163 districts of 20 States, population of 360 million was covered wherein till date more than 5.5 lakhs suspects identified out of which more than 34000 cases have been confirmed. Additionally, administration of Rifampicin as chemoprophylaxis to the contacts of leprosy cases identified in LCDC districts is being done in order to cut down transmission of leprosy in the community.
‘SPARSH’ Leprosy Awareness Campaign To reduce stigma and discrimination, the SPARSH Leprosy Awareness Campaign was introduced and launched on 30th January, 2017 i.e., Anti Leprosy Day, wherein nationwide Gram Sabhas were organised in cooperation and coordination with allied sector of health department. Wherein message from District Magistrate and appeal from Gram Sabha Pramukh to reduce discrimination against persons affected by leprosy were read, pledge was taken by all Gram Sabha members to reduce the burden of disease in the community and felicitation of representative of person affected by leprosy (if available) by Gram Sabha Pramukh was done. These Gram Sabhas were organised in approximately 3.5 lakhs villages.
ASHA based Surveillance for Leprosy Suspects (ABSULS) wherein, ASHA who is the representative of the community to the health system and accountable to the health conditions of people of approximately two hundred households will detect & report suspected leprosy cases in the community. The objectives of ABSULS are to i) Conduct active surveillance of leprosy suspects including NIL reporting, ii) Prioritize leprosy case detection by ASHA and iii) Improve monitoring and supervision of leprosy cases detection activities at village level.
Introduction of Mathematical modelling for leprosy in India. Development of Mathematical model will help in predicting future projections of leprosy cases and Grade II disability, deciding on best available intervention to achieve our objectives in cost effective manner. This model/ tool will be used in making evidence based plans not only at National level but at various other administrative levels i.e., States and Districts, which will be first of its kind application under a National Health Programme in India
Formulation of web based training portal wherein training to the doctors and paramedical staff will be imparted with the support of online power-point presentations, E-Notes, E-Modules, Question and Answers, Case studies and video-clips etc.
Mainstreaming of Leprosy Colonies inhabitants in phased manner.
Strengthening Surveillance of Drug Resistance in Leprosy