Update from Pune: COVID-19 Response

From Research to Response 

Ordinarily, the Johns Hopkins India Clinical Research Team in Pune conducts research to improve outcomes among people living with HIV, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases through longstanding partnerships with the Byramjee Jeejeebhoy Government Medical College (BJGMC) and Sassoon General Hospital, AUNDH Civil Hospital, DY Patil Medical College and Research Centre, and a network of outpatient HIV and tuberculosis clinics.  With support from the Johns Hopkins India Institute the team leveraged their expertise to meet the COVID-related needs of study participants, to provide psycho-social counselling services, guidance on personal hygiene and protective measures for recovered COVID patients and patients who are in home isolation, health and energy drinks to healthcare workers , and educational materials and counselling in clinics and in the community to promote vaccine awareness. Clinical Research Teams are routinely engaged in these activities for research and are trusted sources of health information. 

Counselling People in Home Isolation Who Have Mild COVID Symptoms 

Patients who arrive at BJGMC and Sassoon General Hospital with mild COVID symptoms are counselled on precautions to take while they recover at home and the signs and symptoms that warrant a call to their doctor or trip to the hospital. The Clinical Research Team also provides counselling on nutrition and stress management, and guidance for timing of the COVID vaccination. The team follows up with homebound patients at specific points during isolation and after recovery.   

Counselling People at Sassoon Hospital During and Following Their Hospital Stay 
Masked people with medical supplies

Above, Dr. Sandesh Patil delivers nutritional supplements to frontline healthcare workers.

The Team is providing counselling services for people with COVID while they are being treated at Sassoon Hospital as well as providing follow up after discharge. Patients are provided with information about post-COVID symptom management, the importance of nutrition and exercise, stress management, continuing transmission precautions after recovery, timing of vaccination following recovery, and early signs and symptoms of Mucormycosis, a serious fungal infection associated with COVID, and the need for follow up visits. The Team provides family counselling and is available to patients and their families through the Sassoon Hospital helpline.

Providing Supplemental Nutrition for Healthcare Workers

During COVID’s second wave in Pune, healthcare workers are working day and night on the wards with no food for 6-8 hours. The Team is providing health drinks to doctors, nurses, ward boys and Aaya’s who are providing inpatient care at Sassoon Hospital and Aundh Civil hospital. 

Promoting COVID Vaccine Awareness
Dr. providing COVID awareness information for breastfeeding mothers.

Above, the Team provides COVID awareness information for breastfeeding mothers.

To promote awareness about COVID vaccine and reduce vaccine hesitancy among the general public, the Team developed educational materials for the general public. Team members at BJGMC and Sassoon General Hospital, Aundh Civil Hospital, D.Y Patil Medical College and Hospital are distributing information and providing guidance at 17 tuberculosis clinics and in the community, and are conducting targeted outreach among people who are at increased risk of COVID exposure, including Autorickshaw drivers, vegetable vendors, and family members of COVID patients.  

Leveraging its well-established network among pregnant and lactating women living with HIV and tuberculosis, the Team is conducting counselling sessions that include educational materials tailored for this underserved population, as well as food and masks. In addition, with Lakshya, A Society for Public Health, Education and Research, the Team developed a short film in Marathi with English subtitles to educate Indian youth and dispel myths about the COVID vaccine. 

Looking to the Future 

So far, 2000 people have received counselling at BJGMC, Aundh, and the TB clinics, and 4500 vaccine pamphlets have been distributed in the community. Many activities are planned for the coming months, including deploying the Site’s mobile health and wellness clinic to conduct antigen testing, COVID awareness camps, clinical examination for post COVID patients, and distribute food to community members in need. Additionally, the Team is developing counselling, messaging, and outreach strategies specifically for children and their families regarding pediatric care following COVID recovery and about safe breastfeeding during COVID. 

Johns Hopkins India Team: Mallika Alexander, Prasad Bogam, Gauri Dhumal, Savita Kanade, Neetal Nevrekar, Smita Nimkar, Mandar Paradkar, Sandesh Patil, Nishi Suryavanshi, Priyanka Raichur

BJGMC Study Counsellors, Outreach Counsellors, and Nurses; HATHI, PRACHITI, PHOENIX, RePORT, TreatAsia Studies