On National Tuberculosis Day

National Tuberculosis Day
Privilege Speech
August 20, 2014

By Senator Pia S. Cayetano

Mr. President, esteemed colleagues,

Yesterday, August 19 was Quezon City Day. But the celebration on Quezon City Day is also the celebration of National Tuberculosis Day. By virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 840, the birth anniversary of President Manuel L. Quezon is also our National Tuberculosis Day, in remembrance of the first President of the Commonwealth who died of tuberculosis seventy years ago. [1]

Although tuberculosis is a curable disease, current efforts are insufficient to find and treat those who fall ill to the disease. All over the world, 1 in 3 people who get sick with TB are unable to get the care they need. Each year, around 9 million people worldwide get sick with tuberculosis, but a third of them, or 3 million people, are ‘missed’ or are not being targeted by health systems. [2] Thus, the theme for this year’s World Tuberculosis Day, which was celebrated last March 24, was “Reach the 3 Million,” to ensure that everyone suffering from TB has access to diagnosis, treatment, and cure. [3]

At the time this Proclamation was signed in 1996, the World Health Organization (WHO) listed the Philippines as number one in terms of the number of reported TB cases in the Western Pacific Region. [4] Thus, National Tuberculosis Day was declared to address the significant problem of TB in the country, as well as increase public awareness on its prevention, diagnosis, and management. [5]

Mr. President, today the Philippines is still among the top twenty-two (22) high-burden tuberculosis countries in the world according to the WHO. [6] These twenty-two countries comprise eighty percent (80%) of the global TB burden. [7]

An estimated 200,000 to 600,000 Filipinos have active TB, which makes them contagious to others. A person with active TB can spread the disease to ten other Filipinos each year. [8] In fact, tuberculosis is so widespread that it is the number six leading cause of death in the Philippines. [9]

However, despite the high incidence of TB in the country, we have made significant developments in increasing detection and treatment. In 2007, we achieved a detection rate of 75%, exceeding the WHO target of 70%, and treatment success is at 88%, again exceeding the WHO target of 85%. [10]

In 2009, the National Center for Disease Prevention and Control of the Department of Health spearheaded the process of formulating the 2010-2016 Philippine Plan of Action to Control TB (PhilPACT), with the vision of a TB-free Philippines and the goal of reducing TB prevalence and mortality by half by 2015. PhilPACT is the guiding direction for our efforts towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, and its strategies are closely linked with the government’s health reform agenda to ensure sustainability and risk protection. Its eight-fold strategy to achieve these aims includes, among others, localizing implementation of TB control, monitoring health system performance, engaging all health care providers, both in the public and private sector, and securing adequate funding and improving allocation and efficiency of fund utilization. [11]

However, still there remains a need to undertake effective and efficient strategies to significantly control and reduce tuberculosis in the country.

The World Health Organization which monitors the TB control efforts in many countries, have identified six constraints which hamper these efforts. These are: (1) lack of qualified staff, (2) poor monitoring and evaluation, (3) inadequate infrastructure, (4) weak laboratories, (5) insufficient engagement in Directly Observed Treatment Strategy (DOTS) of private practitioners and other health providers, and (6) limited commitment to, and capacity for, implementing DOTS in peripheral health services. [12] The Philippines faces three of these 6 constraints, namely, poor monitoring and evaluation, poor involvement in DOTS of private and non-NTP public providers, and low public awareness.

Thus, the Department of Health, as the lead agency in the implementation of the TB control program must step up its efforts to address these constraints. Further, we must boost public awareness about the disease, especially the need for diagnosis and treatment, because some infected patients may carry the disease and risk spreading it to people around them.

Mr. President, through effective health interventions and strong information campaigns about tuberculosis, both the public and private sectors can work towards improving public health and protecting our citizens against this relentless disease.

Thank you very much.

End notes:
[1] http://www.healthpromo.doh.gov.ph/events/natl-tuberculosis-day/
[2] http://www.who.int/campaigns/tb-day/2014/event/en/
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] http://www.philstar.com/health-and-family/763897/tuberculosis-philippines-10-things-you-should-know
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid.
[9] http://www.doh.gov.ph/node/198.html
[10] Ibid.
[11] Ibid.
[12] http://www.who.int/tb/publications/global_report/2004/07_results2/en/

[Photo] Sen. Pia Cayetano: The Philippines is still among the top twenty-twohigh-burden tuberculosis countries in the world, according to the WHO

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