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Delhi's new initiative to improve healthcare in the community

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Message Bobby Ramakant
Less than a week before the 3rd Stop TB Partners' Forum is about to begin in Brazil, a unique partnership is being forged in a community of India's capital to improve TB responses.

The residents of south Delhi and healthcare providers in this area are holding an ongoing dialogue to identify key challenges that people face in accessing the health services, and to come up with effective solutions that can potentially improve the quality of care for all residents.

The new Community Care Club in the Lado Sarai area of South Delhi (India), is working to improve the health of people in the diverse district by bringing together consumers and care-providers in a dynamic 'partnership in health'. Led by local former TB patients and people living with HIV, this is an initiative to empower not only themselves, but also to empower and mobilize a broad base of the community including the private and public sectors.

Residents and workers are now organizing to collectively address their problems, improve access and raise the standards of care in the neighborhood - to exercise their rights and take responsibilities for a healthier community.

The first series of public meetings of the Community Care Club will be held on the coming World Health Day (7 April 2009) in different 'high-volume' public spaces. At the same time, a team of people living with the diseases will be conducting a 'streetwise' survey to further ascertain what the community considers a priority for action. It is being organized by the Delhi Mahila Samiti - the Women's Forum of Delhi Network of People Living with HIV (DNP+), and the World Care Council.

The Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP) of the Government of India, now includes the Patients' Charter for Tuberculosis Care (PCTC, The Charter). The Charter is also a part of the global Stop TB Strategy, and lays out the rights and responsibilities of people with TB, and how the Charter is a tool to effectively achieve the implementation of the International Standards of Tuberculosis Care (ISTC).

However, implementing the Charter on the frontlines of TB care, raising awareness about rights and responsibilities, and using it as an empowering tool for people with TB and their community in order to improve the quality of care services, is certainly a daunting task.

Just last year, at a South East Asia regional meeting on TB in New Delhi, the National TB Programme Manager of India (RNTCP) was questioned by the people from affected communities on why the Charter is not a part of the RNTCP - the next day the Charter went up on the website of RNTCP. A major step forward for people with TB, and their communities.

People committed to improving TB care and related services are organizing themselves to mobilize communities to genuinely partner with the healthcare providers, to implement the Charter effectively and advocate for scaling up the quality of TB and TB-HIV care. This initiative is powered by two principles of greater involvement of people living with HIV (GIPA) and the greater involvement of people with TB (GIPT).

A new day dawns for the community on World Health Day in India's Capital.

- Bobby Ramakant
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Bobby Ramakant is a development journalist and has been writing on development issues since 1991. Health is one of the key focus areas he writes on. He is also a World Health Organization (WHO)'s WNTD awardee for 2008
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