Dharamshala — Tuberculosis (TB) continues to be a major public health problem among Tibetan refugees in India. To determine the incidence and risk of the same, data on TB was included in the demographic and health surveillance project carried out by the Tibetan government in exile in Dharamsala, from 1994 to 1996. The incidence of individuals suffering from TB was extraordinarily high in the settlement population, on an average 10.9 per 1000 individuals in 1994, which eventually decreased to 7.7 per 1000 individuals in 1996.
Despite such inclusive data and efforts to decrease the number of individuals suffering from TB, the disease is yet to be eradicated entirely from the Tibetan community in the northern regions of India. On June 5th, 2017, Kalon Ngodum Tsering from the Department of Education, Central Tibetan Administration took the initiative of launching a two-day workshop and meeting in order to raise awareness about the prevention of the disease specifically in Tibetan schools, organized by the Department of Health at Norbu House, Mcleod Ganj.
The participants of the workshop included a minimum of fifty principals, headmasters, nurses, and rectors from the major Tibetan school systems, such as the Tibetan Homes Foundation (THF), Tibetan Children's Village (TCV), and Sambhota Tibetan School (STS). In his inauguration speech, Tsering generally mentioned that TB is one of the enormous challenges faces by the Tibetan community and specifically brought the case of the Tibetan students in boarding schools, which succumb to the disease the most.
He added, that he believes the Tibetan children to be the future leaders of the Tibetan movement, whose health remains crucial not only to safeguard the community, but also to aid and abet the Tibetan movement and turn it into a powerful and vigorous political act. Additionally, the academic performance of Tibetan students is at question here because if their physical and mental health is poor, then their performance in schools and universities may plummet. Hence, Tsering took assistance from Tibetan school administrators, which included the staff, teachers, and health works in order to lay emphasis on the health of the Tibetan youth.
According to Kalon Tsering, a commendable element in the battle against TB is the 'Zero TB in Tibetan Kids' campaign initiated by the Delek Hospital. He believes the campaign to be a praiseworthy initiative, one that is commensurate with the Himachal state government's vision of eradicating TB within the state by the year 2022.
Furthermore, the report states that Tsering aims at setting a specific target date for the absolute and complete eradication of Tuberculosis in the Tibetan community, and persuades the institutes and school administrations to formulate effective strategies to reach the point where the disease does pose a threat to the community.
Tsering also mentioned the diminishing number of students in Tibetan schools and education centers, noting that such a development should be used as an advantage and an opportunity to focus on students individually. For such an occurrence, Tsering added, it is also crucial for the teachers and other staff encouraging collective responsibility and ingrain civic sense in the minds and characters of the students. He also pointed out that in order to work towards the eradication of such a disease, it is of vital importance to raise awareness about it amongst foster parents and cooks through healthcare workshops due to their close affiliations with students.
Tsering also clarified the fact that currently TB occurs more frequently in the Tibetan community in comparison to other communities. Following the teachings and advice of Dalai Lama, he expressed optimism and faith in the devised plan, which if the Tibetan community work towards collectively, may not be difficult to resolve, he believes.
In conclusion, he urged all the participants to express their views, opinions, and recommendations in order to develop an all-encompassing strategy for the prevention and resistance TB in the Tibetan community.