CVCHD, Cebu City, USAID intensify TB control program
As the region faces the threat of further COVID-19 surge, the Department of Health Central Visayas Center for Health Development (DOH CVCHD) and the local government of Cebu City intensify the management and control of another infectious disease, tuberculosis (TB), with the help of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella recently signed an agreement with DOH CVCHD to launch a Citywide TB Elimination Campaign (CiTEC) and demonstrate how a local TB care program can be a portal to Universal Health Care (UHC). “To get other essential health programs back on track, we will start with tuberculosis control to ensure that we are able to address TB as a public health priority,” said Mayor Labella.
Committing to jointly provide resources amounting to PhP 26.5 million for this campaign dubbed as “Pangitaa ang TB” (Find TB), DOH CVCHD and the Cebu City Health Department will conduct TB screening activities to find and start on treatment over 900 persons with TB from May to September 2021. In Barangay Mambaling, one of the most populous communities, free chest X-ray will be offered to residents aged 15 and older. Using Artificial Intelligence (AI), USAID’s local medical teams in mobile chest X-ray vans will be able to determine if clients are presumptive of TB in as fast as five minutes. In Barangay Pasil, community health workers and parent leaders of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) will practice social distancing measures as they visit households, screen residents who may present symptoms and risk factors of TB and refer them to primary care providers for free TB treatment.
At Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, clients and their companions will also be screened for TB and offered free chest X-ray services as part of the hospital’s cough surveillance initiative. A partnership with the University of Cebu will also see the deployment of medical students as treatment partners to help those with TB complete their treatment regimen.
“These are systemic efforts to continue TB services amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” said DOH CVCHD Regional Director Jaime Bernadas at the online launch of the CiTEC. In 2020, the Department of Health noted a 35% decrease in the number of TB cases notified to DOH nationwide. In Central Visayas, new and relapse TB cases dropped from 22,901 in 2019 to 15,874 in 2020.
“Because of the community quarantine, many people were unable to go to health facilities for their check-up or to take anti-TB medicines,” told Dr. Sharon Laurel, Regional Medical Coordinator for the National TB Control Program (NTP).
“USAID, through our ProtectHealth and TB Innovations and Health Systems Strengthening Project, supports this integrated demonstration of UHC in action. This is a very concrete example of a local government, championing the rights of its citizens to good health, through a whole-of-system approach. We, at USAID, are with you, Central Visayas and Cebu City, every step of the way,” said Michelle Lang-Alli, Head of USAID’s Office of Health. USAID pledged over Php 12 million to support the TB control program in Region VII and Cebu City.
The systemic TB control program in Cebu City will serve as a model for UHC implementation. From screening to treatment, Cebuanos with TB will enjoy their rights to good health as mandated in Republic Act 11223 or the UHC Act of 2019. This local initiative also features the adoption of “Oplan TB-free Kami!” as part of the national communication campaign called #TBFreePH.