Accelerating efforts to end TB by 2030

Francis Okoye, CNS Correspondent, Nigeria
In a special webinar organized by Citizen News Service (CNS), it was  reiterated that governments of more than 190 countries, by adopting the sustainable development goals (SDGS) at UN General Assembly in Sept 2015, have globally committed to end TB by 2030. This commitment to end TB is in line with the WHO End TB strategy, which was adopted by World Health Assembly in 2014.

Speaking during the webinar, Dr. Mario Raviglione, Director, Global TB Program of WHO, explained the importance of tackling various socioeconomic issues with a view to ending TB—issues like poor living and working conditions, food insecurity, malnutrition, indoor air pollution, crowding, smoking, alcohol, are all pathways to TB. The World TB Day 2017 focus on ‘Unite to end TB, leave no one behind’, addresses discrimination, marginalization, stigma, overcoming barriers to access quality care, meeting the needs of children, migrants, refugees and other vulnerable populations.

Undoubtedly, health, as well as non health, sectors need to collaborate effectively along with other stakeholders, including affected communities, to accelerate efforts to end TB by 2030 (or earlier). With this intent, potentially one of the most pivotal meetings happening this year, is the WHO Global Ministerial Conference: ‘Ending TB in the SDG era-A multi sectoral response’, which will be held from 16 -17 Nov 2017 in Moscow, Russia. Dr Raviglione shared that the meeting would focus upon

(i) Universal coverage of TB care and programmes
(ii) Sustainable financial and social protection
(iii) Respect for equity, ethics and human rights
(iv) Scientific research and innovation
(v) Monitoring and evaluation of progress
(vi) Action on AMR, health security and MDR-TB

Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Director General of Indian Council of Medical Research, and Secretary of Dept of Health Research, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, stated that there needs to be more awareness about prevention, spread and diagnosis of TB. The latest TB diagnostic tools are expensive and not within the reach of everyone. So we should have quality diagnostics that is cheaper and accessible to all. She also stressed upon the need of developing bio markers, effective vaccine. We need to optimize service delivery-how best service can be delivered in difficult to reach areas.  All these can help in accelerating to end TB by 2030 or earlier if adequately handled. She gave the example of India where the Indian National TB Research Foundation has been set up, to facilitate the coming together of scientists to engage in research, with a view to end TB by 2030. She concluded that we cannot ignore research, as without new tools, it will be difficult to end TB.

Prabha Mahesh, a TB survivor and program manager with ALERT India, who has 12 years experience of working with TB patients and mentoring TB advocates, said in the webinar that the success of TB control depends on measures like prevention, early detection, accurate treatment and adherence to treatment. She advised healthcare givers to identify the specific problems responsible for patients not completing their treatment and then resolve the issue through tailor made solutions. She also suggested family and community monitoring of treatment adherence and more emphasis on counseling and community intervention in TB care and control.

Francis Okoye, Citizen News Service - CNS
April 3, 2017