June 12, 2008 — Tuberculosis is a curable disease that killed an estimated 1.5 million people worldwide in 2006. The World Health Organization estimates that in Pakistan the incidence of TB (including TB/HIV cases) is 181 cases per 100,000 people per year.
Four years ago, The Asia Foundation joined the fight against TB in Pakistan. With a grant from The Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, and in partnership with Pakistan’s National TB Control Program, provincial, district and sub-district-level government, non-profit organizations, and the communities they serve, the Foundation is working in 20 districts in all four provinces to increase rates of detection and help cure TB.
The work focuses on the grassroots level: trainers conduct interactive video sessions to raise awareness and explain treatment. One crucial outcome of these sessions is identification and referral of suspected cases of TB; another is that people in these communities often become volunteers themselves to help their own neighborhoods fight TB. They assist in identifying and referring possible TB cases and visit homes to ascertain whether treatment is being followed. A new aspect of the Foundation’s program is piloting the inclusion of social services in addition to medical services, and introducing food incentives.
The program seeks to directly involve political leaders and government officials in the fight against TB. Once TB patients are identified, the Foundation refers them to Pakistan’s health system and provides forums for people to discuss difficulties in accessing health services from the government. This information is then relayed to government authorities so they can act. By working this way, the hope is that health programs will be more responsive to broader governance concerns in ways that can positively impact the delivery of services.