The Director’s Corner

The Director’s Corner

President Obama and Prime Minister Modi underline importance of MDR-TB

A message from José Luis Castro

Last week, President Barack Obama welcomed Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi to Washington, DC. During the visit, numerous bilateral commitments were made, some of which align with The Union’s core issues.

Both leaders publicly recognised the importance of and threat posed by multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). Recently, the AMR Review called TB the cornerstone of anti-microbial resistance—a key World Health Organization priority that The Union and its partners brought to the fore at the 69th World Health Assembly last month.

This recognition builds on efforts both nations have undertaken this year. But talk is not enough, as both nations have continued to struggle with prioritising this vital lung health issue as part of broader, national health strategies.

The global goal of eradicating TB by 2030 is quickly slipping away. Last year, 1.4 million lost their lives to TB—with nearly 300,000 in India alone. The scourge of MDR-TB, however, is far more pernicious: with roughly 500,000 cases globally and almost 200,000 deaths per-annum, this problem will only worsen with each passing year of inaction.

Drug-resistant TB must be prioritised over empty promises and protracted implementation.

President Obama and PM Modi also agreed on the urgent need to tackle non-communicable diseases (NCDs). In particular, they focused on strengthening tobacco control programmes, shared best practices related to reducing risk factors for diabetes and hypertension, and discussed how to promote healthy lifestyles to ameliorate complications from diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Lung health must be prioritised over the business interests of the tobacco industry. Protecting people from devastating physical and financial impacts of tobacco use makes greater economic sense in the long term than protecting the interests of Big Tobacco.

While we applaud the steps these leaders have taken to address these critical issues, we urge them to commit to a more robust agenda. In addition to political goodwill, we need meaningful political action—without it, MDR-TB and NCDs like asthma and tobacco-fueled illnesses will continue to be pervasive and onerous threats to our global health.

You can read the leaders’ Joint Statement here.


José Luis Castro
Executive Director
The Union