On February 13th, 2023, the 2021-23 batch of Master of Public Health students at the School of Medical Sciences, led by Dr. Ajitha Katta, visited the LEPRA Society- Blue Peter Public Health and Research Centre, marking the culmination of the Leprosy Awareness fortnight, which was celebrated in India from January 30th to February 13th.

LEPRA society is a non-governmental organization, having a history that dates back to the British times. Its Hyderabad head office has been at the forefront of neglected tropical disease efforts in nine states of India, for over 30 years.  The society works in close partnership with National Leprosy Eradication Program of Telangana government.

Dr. Aparna Srikantam, Director, Blue Peter Public Health and Research Centre, gave the students an overview of the scope of work done by the centre. Apart from providing clinical out-patient services for leprosy patients, extensive public health and research and capacity building activities are taken up.  Emphasis is on clinical and epidemiological research in tuberculosis, leprosy, and other neglected tropical diseases like filariasis. The centre’s Bio Safety-3 level laboratory is certified by Department of Biotechnology, Government of India.

Students and staff at LEPRA society taking a pledge to help in efforts to eradicate leprosy in Hyderabad District

The students got a chance to interact with the WHO Zonal Co-ordinator for neglected tropical diseases, Additional DM and EO (AIDS and Leprosy) Dr. Nirmala Prabhavathi and the Paramedical staff of the program, who provided a good insight into the magnitude of problem of leprosy in India and globally.

The students were sensitized about the stigma and discrimination surrounding the disease and were given information on how to detect cases through visual inspection also. They were encouraged to spread awareness and help in early detection and reduction of stigma.

As upcoming public health professionals, the tour of the facility gave a good glimpse of an organization that seamlessly integrates service to the people with cutting-edge, human-oriented research and development. The use of scientific knowledge to improve public health outcomes in a severely neglected area is brought out wonderfully.

The visit was fruitful and opened up avenues for collaboration between the UoH community and LEPRA society in areas of research and public health programs.