Fusing journalism and TB – telling the stories as they are

From the Ground – conviction and confidence

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Nagarathna Hiremath is an outreach worker from Ilkal town in Bagalkote District, Northern Karnataka, India. A diminutive figure, she is feisty enough to intimidate even the most stubborn TB patient into taking his/her medication.

I once accompany her to the home of a TB patient, who she fears is about to give up on medication. We walk through the lanes of Ilkal town, a town of weavers, and home to the famed Ilkal sarees. Every home buzzes with activity and I am distracted enough to want to stop and step into one of the houses because I see weavers working magic on their looms and the vivid coloured yarns taking shape rapidly into gorgeous sarees. They entice me, calling out to me to go and pick them up. But Nagarathna is untouched. She strides purposefully towards the patient’s house – a hut actually.

We have to bend double to be able to enter. Once inside, she doesn’t even stop to greet the patient’s wife. Going into the inner room, she reaches up and searches between the tiles and rafters – in a few seconds, she finds a strip of medication and brings it out and shows it to the patient’s wife, proving to her that her husband has missed some doses. The wife looks away sheepishly. A counselling session follows where Nagarathna patiently explains the consequences of giving up TB medication, and promises to come back and counsel the patient who is away at work, despite being too weak – it’s a question of survival, his wife explains.

Some months later I hear that the patient has recovered and is happy he followed Nagarathna’s advice. She says, “It’s not difficult to persuade them to take their medication. They want to live and be happy. They just want to know someone cares about their fears and want to be reassured.” But enough of me. Listen to her… In her own voice – which says to every patient, YOU CAN. YOU WILL…


Nagarathna was a part of a programme jointly implemented by Karnataka Health Promotion Trust (KHPT) and Abt Associates. Known as the SHOPS TB initiative, the USAID-funded project was implemented in Karnataka in 2013-15 to engage the private sector. The use of innovative methods – administrative support for busy doctors to notify, a telephone-based TB Careline and patient support groups ensured that treatment adherence among private patients was at par with the those under RNTCP.

Anyone wishing to know more about Nagarathna’s work and experiences, can mail me –

Video editing: Jasvinder Sehgal, Member, JATB.

Bharathi Ghanashyam

Written by JournalistsAgainstTB

July 2, 2017 at 7:31 am

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