What's Being Done About Global TB RatesThe World Health Organization (WHO) recently released their annual report on the state of tuberculosis (TB) epidemic and efforts aimed at curtailing the disease globally. The report found that global TB rates have again declined by an average of 1.5 percent but estimates of incidence were grossly undershot in places like India, China and Russia.

In addition to the already grim picture, the WHO report concedes that notification and diagnostic systems continue to lack in high-risk areas. These newly exposed realities severely muddy the larger picture of successes and shortcomings. And they are surely expected to result in a reported stagnation of global TB rates for years to come, despite the 2030 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) explicit mention of curtailing TB as an epidemic.

Complicating efforts to combat the problem and to plan future long-term strategies is the reality that TB is increasingly experiencing multi-drug resistant strains of the disease. In fact, such cases account for over 40 percent of estimated global TB cases.

In recent months, much greater efforts have been spurred to collectively address the global TB crisis. Caucuses have been organized in Latin America, Eurasia and Africa, and several Asian and African nations have passed legislation aimed at ending TB rates in their respective countries in accordance with U.N. and WHO goals and aspirations.

In March, the Americas TB Caucus was formed and included in its ranks Brazil, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Peru and Uruguay. In June, 13 nations stretching from the United Kingdom to Kyrgyzstan announced the formation of the Eurasian Parliamentary Group on TB. And in July, the African TB Caucus was launched and included 18 nations from across the continent, particularly the hard-hit South Africa.

The Philippines, Sudan and Zimbabwe have also announced national efforts this year aimed at combating TB.

In addition to funding efforts to disseminate prevention and treatment methods to those affected, parliamentarians and researchers alike also see a need to treat the social symptoms of TB so as to eliminate factors and settings that can lead to a widening of the epidemic such as endemic poverty rates in high-risk areas.

The WHO included in its 2016 report on social implications for the fight against global TB rates that: “Ending TB and ending poverty are intertwined goals. Ministries of health, affected communities and partners can do more to use available evidence of the links in order to advocate for poverty elimination and action on related risk factors (e.g. noncommunicable disease prevention, food security, and housing).”

James Collins

Photo: Flickr