The Department of Health (DOH) is sounding the alarm as tuberculosis (TB) care and management slow down in the country amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and its resulting quarantine restrictions.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has caused enormous health and economic impacts, even affecting our TB response,” DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III admitted during an online advocacy event in the observance of World TB Day on March 24, 2021.
Upon the implementation of the Universal Health Care Act (UHC) in 2018, the government has targeted treating 2.5 million Filipino TB patients by the end of 2022. However, because of the lockdown set in 2020, TB notification rates in the country decreased by 35% as quarantine restrictions prevented many patients to seek care from private or public health facilities.
Getting back on track
“Let us come together and bring our TB response back on track,” Duque said. The health secretary revealed that DOH and its partners have “implemented measures to ensure currently treating patients have access to at least one month’s supply of anti-TB medicines and respond to challenges of health care in a Covid-19 pandemic setting.”
The DOH is working with partners in its fight against TB. Among its partners are the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Philippine Coalition Against Tuberculosis (PhilCAT), the World Health Organization (WHO), StopTB Partnership, and the Global Fund against HIV, TB, and Malaria.
“We need to come together to bring back the access to services and scale-up efforts and commitment, including from local leaders to achieve the national milestones,” said WHO country representative Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe. “WHO remains committed to support early restoration of services and addressing the challenge of tuberculosis in the Philippines.”
More than 600 TB stakeholders, including patients and survivors, joined the DOH and its partners in the World TB Day online event. The program with the theme ‘The Clock is Ticking: Find TB—Get Back on Track’ welcomed new participants and partners from the private sector like the Contact Center Association of the Philippines (CCAP).
“As part of our health initiatives, CCAP is joining the #TBFreePH campaign to bring critical TB prevention messages to our member companies and to over 600,000 BPO workers in the country,” said CCAP President Jojo Uligan.
#TBFreePH is DOH’s new communication campaign that aims to elevate TB as a public health priority. The campaign aims to tap various platforms in traditional and social media.