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India to Host the 50th Union World Conference on Lung Health Next Year

The 50th Union World Conference on Lung Health will be held in Hyderabad next year, a global organisation working in this field announced Wednesday. The conference Ending the Emergency: Science, Leadership, Action which will be held from October 30 to November 2 next year, the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease said. It will focus on what is needed to ensure commitments become action and targets are met, the organization also called The Union said. Tuberculosis (TB), a preventable and curable disease, now kills more people than HIV/AIDS and is the world’s largest infectious disease killer, it said. India has the highest TB burden in the world with one in four people ill with tuberculosis globally residing in the country, Prabodh Bhambal, Deputy Executive Director at The Union, said. The scale of the TB global health emergency was acknowledged by the United Nations (UN) and it held the inaugural High-Level Meeting on Tuberculosis in New York in September. The meeting culminated in a political declaration signed by world leaders committed to ending tuberculosis by 2030.

The Indian government has committed to eliminate TB in India by 2025. “It’s time to end the global TB emergency and that will mean holding governments accountable to the Political Declaration they signed at the UN meeting, Jos Luis Castro, Executive Director at The Union, said. “In Hyderabad we need to be seeing signs that we are seeing real leadership that is translating into both investment in diagnostic tools, new drugs and a vaccine and action on the ground,” he said. The 50th Union World Conference is expected to be attended by around 6000 researchers, policy makers, health practitioners, political leaders, and UN and community representatives. The latest research into prevention, cure and vaccines will be presented at the conference. The Union has its South-East Asia Office in Delhi employing and implements the Call to Action for a TB-Free India with support from the USAID’s Challenge TB project. The Union’s Project Axshya, launched in 2010, engages all sectors to strengthen TB care and control in 128 districts across 14 states, Bhambal said. Financed by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and partnering with local organizations across India, since 2015, Axysha has reached over 48 million people, identified and tested 643,000 people and placed 70,000 TB patients on treatment and prevented countless cases of infection, he said.

The conference’s theme resonates with TB, but it will also raises awareness on all threats to lung health, including air pollution and tobacco abuse, The Union said. Dr Vedant Kabra, Head of the Department of Surgical Oncology, Manipal Hospitals Groups, said an estimated seven million people across the globe die each year from exposure to ambient and household air pollution according to the WHO. India accounts for 1.6 million deaths annually, he said. On an average, Indian citizens are exposed to PM2.5 concentrations between 15 and 32 times the air quality guidelines set forth by the WHO. Dr Raj Kumar, Director, Vallabhbhai Patel Chest Institute, Delhi, emphasized that implementing stricter emissions standards in India could save hundreds of thousands of lives each year. “We stand at a crossroads for lung health, and I can think of no better or more important place than India to be the backdrop to the urgent conversations that are needed to save millions of lives. “This conference is the platform where we bring science, communications and advocacy together only by uniting will we make sure we push forward on the right road,” Bhambal said. – Business Standard