Tuberculosis (TB)

Community capacity building modules to accelerate the response to drug-resistant TB launched at WHO meeting of national TB programme managers and partners in the South-East Asia region

Close to 100 representatives from countries, partners and civil society came together at the WHO South-East Asia Regional Meeting of National TB Programme Managers and Partners being held in New Delhi from 13-15 May 2019. New training modules were launched by community representatives, WHO and partners, at the opening of the meeting on building the capacity of and empowering affected communities to accelerate the response to drug-resistant TB in the South-East Asia Region. The development of the modules was led by affected community representatives through the Global Coalition of TB Activists and WHO/SEARO, along with inputs from partner agencies like the Stop TB Partnership and International Federation of Red Cross and Crescents (IFRC)

WHO Regional Director for the South-East Asia Region Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh in her opening message said, “Community engagement must be a core priority for all countries, whether low- or high-prevalence. Rather than passively implementing policies that come from above, affected communities should be part of the policy development process, with community recommendations reflected in public health policies. A medical approach alone will not solve the TB problem. The modules launched today are aimed at building the capacity of affected communities to meaningfully engage with national programmes at all levels – from planning to implementation and monitoring.”

Blessina Kumar, CEO of the Global Coalition of TB Activists added, “A community that is empowered with information and understands TB science is a valuable resource to partner with the national, regional and global efforts to #EndTB. For this to become a reality, investment into building capacity of the community is crucial. I congratulate WHO/SEARO for taking this brave initiative to develop capacity building tools for training affected communities. A tool for the community by the community! Thank you to all the partners and colleagues who gave their valuable input and feedback. This is a living document and can be updated as the TB response evolves with new developments.”

It is now being accepted that closing the gap on treatment for all and improving prevention would require extensive community involvement. Community involvement, instead of a top down push, will require building the capacity of and empowering community leaders and workers. Community workers will need to be able to both communicate about TB, a stigmatised disease, as well as enable access to those who need diagnosis and treatment. Affected communities and community based organizations can play a crucial role in ensuring a person-centred and human rights-based approach in the management of drug-resistant TB, provided their capacity is built with appropriate training to understand the science and management of drug-resistant TB.

“We cannot reach the targets of the UN High Level Meeting on TB and the End TB Strategy without meaningful community engagement and empowerment,” said Dr Tereza Kasaeva, Director of WHO’s Global TB Programme. “We commend the leadership of communities, partners and the WHO/SEARO in developing these training modules to empower and build the capacity of communities to end drug-resistant TB. We look forward to this being adapted to local contexts and also being replicated in other regions.”

WHO and partners will support national programmes in the adoption of the modules and in using them to train community representatives, specifically those from affected communities. This will enable communities to contribute meaningfully to all levels of the national programme - from planning to monitoring to delivery of appropriate services. The modules have also been reviewed during the Stakeholders’ consultation meeting in Dhaka where members of WHO global civil society task force, NGOs, donor agencies like the Global Fund and the national programmes were represented.