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Tackling the TB challenge

13 February 2012

Despite its Dickensian image, tuberculosis still kills 1.4 million people every year worldwide, and is on the increase among vulnerable populations.

This week, leading experts from the School and partners including WHO, HPA and the Gates Foundation, gather to explore lessons learnt and next steps in scaling up TB care and control efforts linked with social protection approaches over a three day symposium and workshop.

In the early 1900s the decline of TB mortality in Europe and North America was essentially due to a balanced combination of public health measure and socioeconomic interventions to improve people’s quality of life, including mitigating the state of poverty many lived in. 

Nonetheless, after the introduction of antibiotics this integrated approach switched almost entirely to a curative focus. “Prevention starts with the cure” became the slogan still informing the modern TB control paradigm, according to which TB can be controlled by rapidly identifying cases and successfully treating them. This approach has saved millions of lives, but its impact on TB transmission has been less than anticipated. Further actions are needed, especially tackling the root causes of TB, including poverty and marginalisation.

After a first day of introductory talks on the most recent progress in TB care and control and social protection interventions, a panel of over 40 TB experts, economists, social protection analysts, civil society representatives, and funding bodies will share their knowledge and experience and will  attempt to reach consensus on how to  increase evidence to inform more rapid adoption and scale-up of these integrated approaches . As in the practice of TB control at the beginning of the nineteenth century, it is hoped that this meeting will lead to for further cross-sectorial collaborations and multi-disciplinary actions in which biomedical activities are strengthened by socioeconomic development interventions.

This event is co-sponsored by WHO, UNDP and the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation.

Link to the event's page: "Action on the social determinants of tuberculosis: are social protection interventions the way forward?

(Image: lung section of a TB infected mouse. Credit: Maria Podinovskaia/LSHTM)