Social Mobilization on TB

In the Philippines, tuberculosis (TB) claims 75 lives everyday. Confronted by stigma and resigned to living fearfully with TB, many people do not seek the treatment they need. As part of the global campaign against TB, World Vision is helping communities in the Philippines respond through a network of local volunteers dedicated to supporting those affected by the disease.

 

Called TB Task Forces, these groups of mothers, senior citizens, students and fathers retired from work identify people sick with tuberculosis (TB) and refer them to barangay or village health centers for free diagnostic and treatment services.

 

Task Force members also help TB patients complete their treatment and advocate for local government support to the National TB Control Program (NTP).  They do all of these for free, a desire to help their neighbors their prime motivation.

 

 Using a lecture flipchart produced by World Vision, TB Task Force members share key TB messages to their neighbors.

 

The barangay-based groups are part of World Vision’s Social Mobilization on TB (SMT) Project.  Funded by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, the SMT Project contributes to the country’s NTP by engaging communities in TB care and management.

 

In forming the TB Task Forces, World Vision collaborated with City Health Offices, barangay leaders and health centers in nine cities in the Philippine capital of Metro Manila.  The health center staff together with SMT community development facilitators then looked for and screened potential volunteers.

 

Lesson From the Past

 

Allowing health partners’ involvement in TB Task Force organization is a lesson the project learned from previous years of implementation.

 

“We want the health center staff to help look for volunteers to establish project ownership from the start.  We don’t want them to say this is just World Vision’s as what has happened in the past.  We want them to view this and the volunteers as theirs, too,” Ma. Luzviminda Bautista, NTP Nurse Coordinator for Caloocan City, shared during a meeting of SMT partners in October 2012.

 

Mardilyn Guiao, a former community organizer in Caloocan, applied this lesson when she became the Project Officer in Malabon City, one of the new SMT sites in Metro Manila.

 

“Now the volunteers’ loyalty is primarily with the health center.  This is a good thing since the TB Task Forces are really for them and the community,” Guiao said.

 

Dr. Susan Catapang, Malabon’s NTP Medical Coordinator, said that finding volunteers was not an easy task since many of the people in the community do not have work.

 

“Aside from taking care of their family, they also need to look for ways to put food on the table.  But they volunteer because they want to serve their community, too,” she explained.

 

Catapang recruited volunteers for Barangay Dampalit where the TB program coordinator lives and serves as the medical officer as well.

 

Community volunteers conduct a TB class in Tugatog village in Malabon City.

 

Since she knows most of her neighbors, it was not difficult for her to look for TB Task Force members.  She invited people who had previous community involvement and whom she knew to be dedicated to their work.

 

These were similar qualities that Rosallie Dantes, Malabon’s Assistant NTP Nurse Coordinator, looked for in finding volunteers for the TB Task Force in Barangay Tugatog, where she is also the health center nurse.

 

From Doubt to Strong Partnerships

 

Dantes admits to being skeptical at first about having volunteers as she viewed it as additional work.

After four months of working with the TB Task Force, however, she now regards them as invaluable partners to TB management and prevention.  The 17 volunteers in Tugatog have identified 11 TB patients.  Some of the volunteers are helping five patients recover from TB.

 

“It is actually less work for me not to be thinking about why two or three patients did not come back because the volunteers help me supervise the treatment of patients who cannot go to the health center,” Dantes explained.

 

“If you think about it, I’m really the one who is asking them a favor,” she added.

 

Dantes observed that TB Task Force members have become adept at identifying people with TB symptoms, a skill the volunteers learned from trainings facilitated by Dantes, Catapang and other TB program coordinators.

 

“They were very shy at first.  But on the second day, you’ll see them gaining more courage,” Dantes recalled.

 

As the volunteers learned, Dantes said she and her co-facilitators developed, too.  “We learned from our mistakes and applied better facilitation techniques in succeeding trainings,” she said.

 

Catapang and Dantes made sure to appreciate the volunteers during the training.  “We are thankful to them.  We make sure they know this and how much we accept them,” Catapang conveyed.

 

Nurturing Volunteerism for Community TB Care

 

Health partners extend this appreciation beyond the organization and training of the TB Task Force.  The Tugatog Health Center, for instance, provides vitamin supplements to the volunteers.  The health facility also prioritizes them when there are free services such as flu and pneumonia vaccines.

 

In addition, Dantes attends their activities whenever she can.

“Communication is key.  There is something missing when I don’t hear from them for a week.  They call me whenever they have concerns or questions such as where to hold TB classes.  I constantly check TB referrals from their house-to-house visits.  If I can resolve whatever problems they have, I do it,” Dantes explained.

 

Thelma Gantalao, Auditor of the Tugatog TB Task Force, greatly appreciates the partnership they have formed with Dantes and the health center. “She and the health workers are like a family to us…We are happy because they value us and what we do so we value them as well,” she said.

 

“In return, we strive to do better in helping more TB patients,” Emily Villar Garovillas, TB Task Force President, added.

 

For community organizer Guiao, being part of the SMT Project’s new phase in Metro Manila has taught her one thing: “Volunteerism is alive.  As long as we have that concern for one another, there will always be volunteers out there willing to help,” she shared.

The TB Task Forces in Metro Manila have referred over 280 TB patients to barangay health centers.  The volunteers are supervising the treatment of over 80 TB patients.

 

World Vision’s SMT Project, in collaboration with local government and health partners, has organized 125 TB Task Forces in 9 Metro Manila cities.  It covers a population of over 4 million.  For more information, send an e-mail to roberto_dazo@wvi.org.