A Tuberculosis (TB) free US?

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“Wanted: Leaders for a TB –free world” is this year’s theme for World TB Day! Early last year, I participated in a strategy and visioning workshop here at the Institute for Community Health (ICH). My group envisioned successfully co-leading an initiative aimed at eradicating TB in the US and making the headlines as award recipients who collaborated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It was a fun activity, and as I pondered over this exercise, I realized the US might actually be at the brink of eliminating TB!

In the US, the trend for new TB cases has been decreasing from 52.6 cases per 100,000 persons in 1953 to 2.9 cases per 100,000 persons in 2016, as shown in the chart above. We have made a steady progress largely due to the promotion of best practices in managing patients with TB, directly observing patients to improve adherence, as well as reducing TB drug resistance.

I believe my group’s vision was not too far from reality. In fact, ICH is currently evaluating a Massachusetts Department of Public Health three-year demonstration project that aims at scaling up latent TB infection (LTBI) testing and treatment among high-risk populations. The implementing partner is Lynn Community Health Center, in Lynn MA. As evaluators, we are utilizing mixed methods to gather data to monitor progress towards the goal, understand  challenges, and record lessons learned, so that the key findings from this initiative can be disseminated and spearhead a bundle of best practices for increasing testing and treatment for LTBI in the US. The ultimate goal of this project is to promote the sustainability of these efforts, so that they can replicated in similar health care settings. The hope is to accelerate the progress towards TB elimination in this country.

Here is a video on 5 Things to know about TB

Video shared by CDC

As we commemorate World TB day, and in the spirit of ‘Wakanda’, I challenge you today to leave a comment and your thoughts about what we can do to eliminate TB. How can we engage the public and private sectors in eliminating TB? Trivia question: which year do you think the US will eliminate TB?

Blessing Dube, MPH

Manager of Epidemiology and Data Services