The World Health Organization recently held a discussion on Effective Provision of TB Patient Social Protection with diverse stakeholders working on tuberculosis- and multidrug-resistant TB–related initiatives. Their purpose? To start drafting a framework to support more effective and sustainable ways to help TB patients.
“There is demonstrated need for social assistance for poor and vulnerable TB patients, and there are missed opportunities to use available sustainable social protection schemes in many countries,” said Diana Weil, Coordinator of Policy, Strategy, and Innovations in WHO’s Global TB Programme. "Working together, we can maximize the resources available to improve treatment outcomes and reduce financial burdens."
I had the honor of chairing part of this discussion. Other participants included representatives from the Global Fund, The World Food Program, International Labor Organization, national TB programs, and non-governmental organizations that provide economic and social support to TB patients.
Two inspiring days of conversation ensued, animated by the same drive to support countries addressing the social needs of their TB-affected communities.
After all, how can a person be cured when worrying about food for his or her family? According to ILO, only 20 percent of the world’s population has adequate social security coverage today, and more than half completely lack coverage.
One of the Lilly MDR-TB Partnership’s objectives is to expand equity in access to care. We do this with various initiatives, including direct patient aid programs like a recently launched initiative in China's Shanxi Province. This program provides social support to people affected by MDR-TB to improve treatment adherence. Through our partner organization, the International Federation of Red Cross, people receive food parcels and reimbursement to buy transportation tickets to go to the hospital, as well as psychological support.
The Lilly MDR-TB Partnership vision also supports work that could have large-scale impact. That's why we supported the recent WHO discussion on social protection and related case studies on best practices. We are committed to finding sustainable solutions, thus we applaud and join the WHO in advancing the agenda to expand social protection.
We know that no single organization can have sufficient impact on global issues of this size. Even so, we all play a small yet significant role in improving people's quality of care and life. Where we can provide resources and services to accomplish that, we will do so.