We Know How to Stop TB: World TB Day 2013

We Know How to Stop TB: World TB Day 2013

{Photo credit: Katy Doyle / MSH.}Photo credit: Katy Doyle / MSH.

Stop TB in my lifetime.

This global call to action---the Stop TB Partnership's theme for March 24, World TB Day 2013---is as relevant now as it was over a hundred years ago.

Progress toward reducing the global burden of tuberculosis (TB) has been impressive in recent years: TB mortality has fallen by 41 percent since 1990.

Yet, TB remains one of the world’s leading causes of death, killing more than 1.4 million people per year, including 70,000 children. In 2011, 600,000 people died of TB in Africa alone---including many people with HIV.

Low detection rates, new strains of multidrug resistant TB (MDR-TB), high prevalence of HIV/TB co-infection, and risk of TB among diabetes patients---nearly 10 percent of TB cases are linked to diabetes, add to the challenge of TB control, especially among the poor and most vulnerable.

An end to TB is possible.

MSH-led and USAID-funded work to expand high-quality, community-based directly observed treatment, short course (CB-DOTS), and urban DOTS in Kabul, improved access to TB testing and treatment in Afghanistan---a country with some of the most challenging problems for health and a higher prevalence of TB among women than men.

We know how to stop TB.

To stop TB in our lifetime, we must work together. Collaborating with international, national, and local partners:

  • Go to the people. Strengthen health systems with a people-centered approach.

    Put people at the center of TB control efforts---build their capacity to manage TB efficiently and reach those who are most vulnerable to TB---to reduce TB transmission and keep alive those living with the disease.

    Build capacity of national TB programs and ministries of health to implement strong decentralized MDR TB programs anchored in a programmatic approach to MDR TB, clinical management, a well-functioning laboratory system, and improved drug management.

  • Focus TB efforts on children & women.

    Target screening and diagnosis in children; provide child-friendly dosages and appropriate therapeutics; and reach women, especially those who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

  • Engage all levels of the health system.

    Engage and empower health workers for early TB detection and treatment, integrate TB/HIV and TB/diabetes, and empower community and religious leaders to refer at-risk individuals for screening. As our colleague, Luis Gustavo Bastos, says, “The multidisciplinary team -- including but not only the physician alone -- has the greatest potential to manage prevention and treatment activities in order to decrease TB deaths and patients’ suffering.”

  • Ensure access and availability of quality TB diagnostics, drugs and treatments.

    Strengthen laboratory systems and pharmaceutical and supply chain management; ensure financing and sustainability for improved new diagnostics, like GeneXpert MTB/RIF.

  • Invest in TB, it pays!

    A huge shortfall in needed funding threatens to reverse the gains of the last decades. Only through political will, and an increase in funding for TB health priority areas, can we stop TB.

You can help.

Working together to stop TB in our lifetimes!

Pedro G. Suarez, MD, is global TB technical lead, and Andre Zagorski, MA, is principal technical advisor for TB, at MSH.

Editor’s note: This post is part of a World TB Day series on what works to stop TB. Join the conversation in the comments and on Twitter with hashtags " href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23WorldTBDay&src=hash"> and " href="https://twitter.com/search/realtime?q=%23HowtoStopTB&src=typd">.

Tell us in the comments: how are you helping to stop TB in your lifetime?