"On the move against Tuberculosis – innovate and accelerate for action"

Tuberculosis (TB) is a devastating disease that kills nearly 2 million people annually, many of whom are from developing countries. The highly contagious airborne disease affects mostly young adults in their most productive years. This in itself creates a health crisis that must be tackled effectively by 2015 by reversing and halting the spread of the disease as outlined under Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 6.

It is projected that between now and 2015 approximately 40 million people will contract the disease and 8 million people will die from TB. These figures are unacceptable and can be avoided. In this new era, no one should die from the disease. Despite it being an ancient disease, in today’s world it is a curable one. Jamaica is considered a low prevalence country with an average of 110 new cases annually. In 2009 the Ministry of Health’s surveillance system picked up a total of 150 TB cases – 130 were new, 20 were previously treated. In 2010 a total of 118 cases were diagnosed – 108 new, and 10 previously treated.

This year the observance of World TB Day enters its second year of a two year campaign under the theme “On the move against Tuberculosis”. The campaign is intended to inspire new and innovative ways to develop and implement public health programmes, improve research, and scale up resources in an effort to eliminate TB. It is an urgent call for a more collaborative approach and to recognize those that have made significant headway in the treatment and care of persons affected by the disease.

Locally, we have made commendable achievements in the last few years. The World Health Organization promotes the Directly Observed Therapy (Short Course) or DOTs which involves administration of treatment in the home as long as the individual is not infectious. The Ministry has adopted this method after an initial period of hospitalization to ensure that treatment is effective. A National TB Manual was prepared and launched in 2008 to be used as a management and training tool for health professionals working in TB prevention and control. In addition, A National Strategic Plan has been developed which will be printed and launched this year. Importantly, the local laboratory capacity has been strengthened to facilitate the partial testing of TB cultures for more accurate diagnosis. The capacity to conduct full culture tests will be achieved in short order. Our effort has been largely focused on supporting the campaign and I want to thank all those who have made their contribution in this area of public health including the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

Whilst we have made these commendable achievements, a lot more needs to be done. Individuals with symptoms of chronic cough, night sweat and fever need to visit their doctor for testing. All efforts must be combined to improve diagnosis, treatment and care. Public education, advocacy and clinical efforts must together be scaled up in order for Jamaica and the rest of the world to meet international TB control targets.  This target cannot be achieved without the involvement of all stakeholders – civil society, public health officials and private organizations. We must work together and advocate for this worthy cause – a society without tuberculosis.


Hon. Rudyard Spencer, OD, MP

Minister of Health

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