Tuberculosis (TB)

The Philippines Department of Health and WHO call for 'all-out-war' against TB

All 17 Philippines regions were present to take stock of progress towards End TB targets and take the torch forward at the 'Race to End TB' event organized jointly by DOH and WHO, marking the starting point of the 'business-not-as-usual' strategy to End TB in the country.

The Philippines Department of Health (DOH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) jointly call for an all-out-war against tuberculosis (TB), the number one infectious killer in the country. TB claims the lives of over 70 Filipinos every day. There are also one million Filipinos who have active TB disease, the third highest global prevalence rate next to South Africa and Lesotho.

“TB is preventable and curable, yet many Filipinos continue to die from this dreadful disease. We are making this a priority under the Duterte administration to finally put an end to TB,” said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III. “The DOH is committed to three ‘business-not-as-usual’ strategies for our all-out-war against TB: (1) high-level commitment, (2) massive screening, testing, and treatment, and (3) mandatory notifications by the private sector.”

Last September 2018 at the UN General Assembly high-level meeting on TB in New York, the Philippines, through Secretary Duque, committed to find, notify, and treat 2.5 million people with active TB and 1.4 million people with latent TB by 2022. The country has also pledged to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of beating tuberculosis by 2030.

“For the Philippines to reach its TB targets, the country needs to implement an aggressive and sustained public health campaign against TB. There should be strong commitment and action not only from the health sector but also other government agencies, the local government, communities and the private sector,” said WHO Representative in the Philippines Dr. Gundo Weiler. “WHO is here to provide support to wipe out this top killer.”

President Duterte affirms Philippines' commitment to end TB at the opening ceremony of the 7th Union Asia Pacific Regional Conference.

The three ‘business-not-as-usual’ strategies are game-changing multi-sectoral initiatives, led by the Department of Health, which will ensure high-impact results within the next few years. The first strategy aims to address the social determinants of TB to prevent catastrophic costs to patients and their families due to loss of income during their sickness due to TB. It will involve the participation of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

The second strategy aims to provide faster and better access to the latest technologies to screen, test, and treat people with TB. This will be through the proper allocation of budget required by the Philippine Strategic Elimination Plan to deploy adequate resources and health workers on the ground. It will involve the participation of legislators and the Department of Budget and Management.

The third strategy aims to enforce the Comprehensive Tuberculosis Elimination Plan Act of 2016 (RA 10767) for mandatory notifications by all public and private providers. It will require all care providers, private as well as public, to notify the Department of Health of every person with TB that they diagnose.

“The DOH calls for stronger collaboration to create a major dent in the TB epidemic by decreasing the number of TB cases and people dying from TB. We enjoin our partners to work with us,” said Secretary Duque. “It’s time for everyone to join the race to end TB in the Philippines. It’s time for an all-out-war against this menace.”

WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Dr Takeshi Kasai also gave a compelling message during the opening ceremony of the 7th Union Asia Pacific Regional Conference where he shared: “Tuberculosis is a topic very close to my heart. My grandfather in Japan died from the disease, before we knew how easily it could be cured. For WHO’s part, we will do everything to support you that we possibly can in the race to end TB.”

Dr Tereza Kasaeva, Director of WHO's Global TB Programme emphasized, "This is a historic moment for Philippines and the Western Pacific Region. The Race to End TB and the presence of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte signals highest level commitment that can accelerate the response to end TB across the country saving millions of lives. WHO is committed to support the DOH in reaching its targets."