Next Monday, March 24, is World TB Day, a time when the global health community focuses much-needed attention on a deadly airborne disease that is thriving in some of world’s poorest places. This year, the World Health Organization and Stop TB Partnership are calling attention to the three million people living with TB who are “missed” by health systems -- families mired in poverty, refugees, migrant workers and many others. These people don’t receive the care they need and continue to spread TB unchecked.
If we’re going to get TB under control, finding these patients, treating them and curing them must be a top priority. Our latest effort through the Lilly MDR-TB Partnership aims to do precisely this with a focus on South Africa -- where cases of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) doubled between 2007 and 2012 and countless others are “missed”.
With a United Way Worldwide grant made on behalf of the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation and the Lilly MDR-TB Partnership, the Donald Woods Foundation has just announced that it will be working closely with the South African government to expand its national initiative to decentralize MDR-TB treatment.
Through small, local clinics and rapid-response mobile teams, the Foundation will work with the Eastern Cape Provincial Department of Health to proactively bring TB care and services to vulnerable communities in both rural areas and densely-populate urban zones. Health care professionals will educate communities, test for TB, administer medications, and make sure patients complete a full treatment course.
This will bring more of the “missed” cases of TB -- and MDR-TB -- into the formal health system as patients are centrally reported and tracked. And we expect that it will lower health care costs, reduce transmission of the disease, and make the process of treating MDR-TB less burdensome on patients and their families by minimizing travel and long waits to be admitted in centralized facilities. It will also ensure that MDR-TB cases don’t evolve into more resistant strains that are nearly impossible to treat.
We’re very excited to develop this component of the Lilly MDR-TB Partnership along with our ongoing efforts in China, India and Russia. Sharing learnings and best practices across borders is a fundamental part of our work. The project in Eastern Cape will not only help people living with TB there, it will also provide new insights that will help us -- together with the broader global health community -- put the most effective strategies into practice as we join forces to stop TB worldwide.