Volunteers lead fight against tuberculosis
In 2016, the Philippines passed the TB elimination law (Republic Act 10767) which mandates the Department of Health to have an action plan in addressing the pressing problem on tuberculosis in the country. The lawseeks to reduce the number of new cases by 90% in 2030.
Tuberculosis is an infectious disease that attacks the lungs and can potentially damage other parts of the body. According to the 2016 World Health Organization (WHO) Global TB report, 10.4 million people feel ill from TB in 2015. In the Philippines alone, there were 14,000 tuberculosis-related deaths and more than 320,000 new patients recorded.
While significant developments have been made in the country, there are still areas where advocacy is needed. In the municipality of Quezon in Bukidnon, the case detection rate is still at 47%, way behind the 90% estimated cases in the area, according to the municipal health office. Tuberculosis is also no respecter of age. Reports from the municipality shows that recently, a 15-year old child died from the disease.
“The data shows that there are cases that are not yet reported, most probably because of the stigma associated with it or the community’s limited awareness of TB,” shares Health and Nutrition Specialist Cleaofe Sacala.
Building a network of volunteers
Following the reorganization of the Municipal Multi-Stakeholders TB Management Council (MMSTBC), World Vision launched its partnership with the municipality of Quezon during World TB Day last March 2017.
“We commend the local government’s efforts to reorganize the Municipal Multi-Stakeholders TB Management Council (MMSTBC), through Executive Order No. 10 Series of 2017. World Vision is one of the members of the council and this allowed us to easily mobilize volunteers,” shares Portia Xenia Liwagon, World Vision staff based in Bukidnon. The MMSTBC led to the organizing of TB task force at the barangay level with barangay resolutions.
In the months that followed, World Vision, in partnership with the local health department, conducted Basic Health Education training and Directly Observe Treatment Short course(DOTS) to equip TB task force members.
53-year old Francisca, a barangay health worker and one of the active TB task force members shares, “Just last week, we were able to orient more than 200 people in our barangay and referred six peoplefor free diagnostic and treatment services.”
The task at hand is not easy though. Her village is home to at least 8,000 people. Of the total number, 13 are registered TB patients. She believes that there is more but the stigma and misconceptions are still hindering people from getting themselves checked.
“Most people think that they would spend much should they decide to seek help. Some would rather keep things to themselves, afraid that people will shy away from them,” Francisca adds.
“This is why we will be doing house to house in the coming weeks. We hope that through this, we can better explain things to them and accommodate questions that they may be afraid to ask when with a group. We’re not expecting it to be easy but we’re seeing progress. ”
To date, at least 52 barangay health workers have been trained and are now stepping up to help their communities. On September 4, in celebration of the Lung Month with a theme of “Sama-samang tudlukan ang TB,” the group had radio advocacy activities, a Color Lung Run 2017, a fun run for healthy lungs which is also a fundraising initiative to support the on-going treatment of all registered TB patients in the municipality.
“This is just the start. We hope to continue building the capacity of volunteers and barangay health workers across the 31 barangays of Quezon and eventually contribute to achieving the targets of the health department,” says Liwagon.
From 2007 to 2015, World Vision also helped mobilize more than 5,000 volunteers across 13 cities and four provinces in the Philippines through its Social Mobilization on TB project. The initiative has resulted to more than 34,000 referrals nationwide.World Vision/September 11, 2017