A new report on tuberculosis (TB) published by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) investigates the increasing health challenges posed by TB and calls for new ways to improve the effectiveness of the global response to this pandemic.
The report supported by Janssen and titled ‘Ancient enemy, modern imperative: A time for greater action against tuberculosis’, highlights the evolving TB crisis. It emphasises the urgent need for integrated care, harnessing innovative yet cost-effective strategies and raising the profile of TB to overcome this highly infectious, yet treatable killer.
Lucica Ditiu, Executive Secretary at the STOP TB Partnership explains that TB has been met with apathy: “It is like an orphan. It has been neglected even in countries with a high burden and often forgotten by donors and those investing in health interventions.”
As a result of the need for critical change to enable more effective TB control, the report calls for new TB strategies that address current weaknesses, while leveraging successes to date. These changes include:1
Finding and treating people where they live: To identify the nearly 3 million new cases of TB every year, health systems in countries with a high TB burden need to look across the entire population. Even those countries with a lower prevalence have to find better ways of going into and working with marginalised populations.
Taking TB control out of existing silos: TB needs to treat the whole person, including addressing common co-morbidities such as HIV/AIDS, and co-ordinating public and private health provision.
Harnessing cost-effective technology: Although progress in TB remains frustratingly slow, new tools available today – both medical and non-medical such as mobile technologies and integrated databases – have the potential to transform treatment.
Raising the profile of TB: Perhaps most important, activists and other stakeholders must translate new global ambitions into national ones – that deploy the tools at hand with sufficient energy to make more rapid progress against this disease.
“The report calls for more attention to the basics in the battle against TB and the drug-resistant form of the disease; current efforts are insufficient and resistance is out of control. The vast majority of people with multi drug resistant (MDR) TB are not properly diagnosed or treated appropriately, and we have to recognise that MDR-TB is a real global public health emergency. Not only is the growth of drug resistance making TB control more difficult, but it is also revealing failures in basic TB control,” said Neil Schluger, Chief Scientific Officer of the World Lung Foundation and chair of the Tuberculosis Trials Consortium.