Tuberculosis remains a hurdle

Editorial

INVESTING in health, is investing in people which is essential for sustainable long-term development outcomes.
Failing to invest in health leads to poor health outcomes and has a profound economic impact resulting in high costs for Papua New Guinea.
Communicable diseases (for instance, tuberculosis) impacts labour force productivity, increase health care costs and are a threat to economic growth-generating sectors such as tourism.
Tuberculosis remains a major public health problem in PNG.
PNG is one of the 30 high TB, MDR-TB (multidrug-resistant TB) and TB/HIV burden countries in the world.
In 2018, about 28,000 TB cases were notified in our country.
It is scary that an estimated incidence of TB was 432 per 100,000 population in 2018, which is one of the highest globally and is the second-highest in the Western Pacific Region.
Tuberculosis treatment coverage is still low.
In addition to drug-susceptible TB, over the past 10 years, PNG is also facing a rapidly rising number of multidrug-resistant TB cases.
Tuberculosis is a top infectious disease killer in PNG with a mortality rate of 47 per 100,000 population.
TB is caused by airborne bacteria affecting the lungs.
It’s one of the oldest known diseases in the world and is also preventable and curable.
The symptoms include coughing – sometimes with blood, chest pains, weakness, weight loss, fever and night sweats.
This disease thrives in overcrowded areas and is one of Papua New Guinea’s leading causes of death.
To better understand the social and economic burden of TB in the country, a TB patient cost survey was conducted by the National TB programme in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
Tuberculosis carries profound economic and social consequences.
A recently conducted national TB patient cost survey in PNG showed that TB patients suffer from social and financial consequences and lack of financial or social protection. According to the report, 54 per cent of TB-affected households had to incur catastrophic expenses covering medical and non-medical costs exceeding 20 per cent of the annual household’s income.
The findings of the National Tuberculosis Patient Cost Survey in Papua New Guinea (2107 – 2018) was presented at a high-level meeting in Port Moresby.
The main social challenges of TB, it says, includes losing work time, loss of job or employment, taking out a loan or selling assets, food insecurity, social exclusion and interrupted schooling for children.
Almost two-thirds of patients experienced a negative financial impact from TB on their households.
All of the issues highlighted here are not the responsibility and the “headache” of the health sector alone.
We concur with Health Minister Jelta Wong that findings from the survey pose a series of tough challenges to the Government of PNG, all development and implementing partners.
It is because health in general and TB, in particular, are not just a concern of the health sector alone but the whole of society.
Human health is related to every sector of economy and society including education, social protection, employment, food and agriculture, roads and traffic, environment, media and many more.
The high TB infection rate in the country should be raising eyebrows and a ‘national emergency’ declared as all efforts swing towards containing it.

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