Professor Sanjib Bhakta wins prestigious Microbiology Society 2020 outreach prize

The Microbiology Society Outreach Prize 2020 was awarded for the charity project ‘Joi Hok’, which uses educational intervention as a means of spreading awareness of tuberculosis.

Professor Sanjib Bhakta, Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Biochemistry at the ISMB and ‘Joi Hok!’ founder Sreyashi Basu have been awarded the 2020 Microbiology Outreach Prize by the Microbiology Society, for effectively bridging the gap between laboratory science and public health research with their project ‘Joi Hok!’, a community tuberculosis (TB) awareness programme.

The programme’s aim is to alter the perception of TB among the local community in Kolkata, India, through a network of local artists, musicians and health professionals. A series of routine interdisciplinary workshops were introduced in semi urban and rural schools around the city over a span of 6 months.

Sanjib Bhakta commented: “TB has progressively worsened with the advent of antibiotic resistance, hence there is urgent need to review and deal with the disease not only as a medical concern or even public health problem alone, but also as a socio-economic challenge.”

Sreyashi Basu commented: “we used traditional folk-art and music as a creative tool to engage and educate underprivileged youth on the influence of local stigmas and antibiotic resistance in the context of TB. We have been fortunate to see a discernible impact amongst the masses whereby the transfer of knowledge from children to household members has resulted in an increased awareness of TB in the community and encouraged patients to adhere to anti-TB treatment regimens .”

Professor Mark Harris, General Secretary of the Microbiology Society, said: “The Microbiology Society Prizes panel felt that the ‘Joi Hok!’ tuberculosis awareness programme demonstrated an inventive and exciting approach to informing the public about an important disease.  The novelty of the programme was its innovative use of traditional art and music to raise awareness of tuberculosis in rural India, with potential to positively influence treatment and control in a country that has the highest global incidence of this devastating infection – a worthy winner of the Microbiology Society Outreach Prize 2020.” 

The Microbiology Society is a membership charity for scientists interested in microbes, their effects and their practical uses, and is one of the largest microbiology societies in Europe. The Microbiology Outreach Prize is awarded for an outstanding outreach initiative, that shows innovation, originality and a sustained impact over time.

The Joi Hok programme uses traditional art and music to raise awareness of Tuberculosis in rural India.