Operation ASHA is dedicated to bringing tuberculosis treatment and health services to the poorest of the poor in India’s urban slums and rural villages.
We are among the world’s largest NGOs in tuberculosis treatment and prevention, making these services available to more than 8.9 million people who have little access to basic healthcare, let alone medicines to treat TB. With treatment centers established in more than 4,000 slums and villages in 9 Indian states and 2 Cambodian provinces, our team plans to expand to other regions of the developing world afflicted with TB. “Tuberculosis is a scar on the face of the earth,” says Dr. Shelly Batra, president of Operation ASHA.
Journey till date
Dr. Shelly Batra and Sandeep Ahuja founded Operation ASHA in 2006 with a compelling vision: to improve the lives of the disadvantaged. The first step in this fight is to eradicate TB, and then add other products and services to the delivery pipeline of Operation ASHA. Their clear-sighted goals and unwavering dedication prompted policy-makers, health practitioners, and investors to join from both sides of the Atlantic. Shortly following, an advising and fundraising group grew in the US to form Operation ASHA, USA.
A doctor and a former government official, Dr. Shelly Batra and Sandeep Ahuja, were unlikely partners, but in 1998 they teamed up to finance Dr. Batra’s free treatment and surgeries for those unable to afford life-saving procedures. Sandeep helped her organize a group of friends, relatives and colleagues who supported Batra’s work regularly.
After founding Operation ASHA, Sandeep and Shelly developed a pipeline to pump in services and products to the most disadvantaged. They decided to focus on the eradication of tuberculosis (TB).India tops the world’s high-burden TB list. The UN declared tuberculosis a global emergency in 2003 and numbers of infected TB patients have reached epidemic proportions in India in the last decade. In OpASHA’s first year, 2.2 million new TB cases and 400,000 TB deaths were recorded in India.
Operation ASHA began with one TB treatment center in September 2006 and enrolled 26 new patients within 3 months. Today, OpASHA provides tuberculosis treatment and education services in more than 4,000 slums in nine Indian states and two provinces in Cambodia. With a successful model in place, Operation ASHA continues to grow and expand beyond India’s borders to Southeast Asia and Africa, where millions more suffer from tuberculosis. Operation ASHA is now covering 14.6 million people worldwide.
Since 2005, we’ve blended the World Health Organization’s standard treatment model, DOTS, the Government of India’s resources, and our community-based approach to create a uniquely innovative and effective model for treating TB in urban slums and rural-poor communities. Experts in the field and well-known publications worldwide have noted our model’s success. Just see our Testimonials page, or OpASHA in the News, to read about who’s been talking about us.
Whether treating TB in urban India, or in rural Cambodia, we follow the World Health Organization-approved DOTS model (Directly Observed Therapy, Short-course). Standardized in 1993, the model recommends that every patient takes medication under the supervision of an observer. This ensures that each patient undergoing treatment completes the 6-month course, a crucial step in preventing the patient from developing MDR-TB, a more virulent and dangerous form of tuberculosis. The majority of tuberculosis treatment organizations worldwide now follow the DOTS regimen. We’ve taken the DOTS model two steps further:
First, we’ve taken DOTS treatment centers into the heart of the slums, rather than have patients travel to government hospitals or other clinics far away from home. With our model, patients can walk around the corner to receive treatment, making it much easier for them to adhere to their treatment schedule. Simply by placing our centers close to our patients’ homes, we’ve been able to reduce the number of patients who skip doses on a given day to less than 3 percent.
Second, we’ve developed eCompliance, a technology meant to enhance the DOTS tuberculosis treatment model. This monitoring system, now established in 139 of our centers, has reduced the percentage of patients who fail to finish treatment to 3.1 percent. In short, our model incorporates the most up-to-date methods for patient treatment, making our clinics some of the most efficient in the world. Click through this section to learn more about what we do and who we are.
Meet the Mastermind
Sandeep Ahuja, Founder & CEO: Sandeep is a management and strategy expert. He co-founded Operation ASHA and has led it since 2006. Under his leadership, the population coverage of Operation ASHA has expanded by 500 times in 9 years. He is also an advocate for improved care for public health–specifically TB care for the bottom of the pyramid markets at the local, state, national and international level.
Before starting Operation ASHA, Sandeep was a member of the Indian Revenue Services (1991 batch). In the IRS, Sandeep played many roles, starting from implementation of excise laws in Mumbai, then tax fraud detection in Mumbai and later in Western India. Then he moved to a policy-making position in the Ministry of Finance and played a role in improving India’s export competitiveness. He authored a book on the Drawback Tax Rebate Program in India. Sandeep received many cash awards and commendations for excellent work during his tenure in the Indian Revenue Service.
Sandeep was conferred a Public Service Award by the University of Chicago in 2013. He was also invited by the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) as a keynote speaker on the Founder’s Day (Sir Sayyed Day) Celebrations in 2002. AMU also conferred on him the Abdul Aziz Medal, University Medal and National Merit Scholarship.
“TB is a scar we will heal together with our partners, supporters, and you. We can achieve that goal by the UN Millennium Development Goal’s deadline: 2050.”