Wednesday, 26 June 2013

World Health Communication Associates - WHO's Sixty-Sixth World Health Assembly

A friend of mine just prompted me to post the articles I wrote back in May when I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Sixty-Sixth World Health Assembly in Geneva.....

Tuberculosis: from poetry to present day UK
Rebecca Megson
Mention tuberculosis (TB) today in the UK and images of Romantic poets coughing themselves into an early but poignant death are conjured. In the modern world TB is believed to be a problem that belongs, if anywhere, ‘over there’, in developing countries.
However, London is now recognised as the ‘TB Capital of Western Europe’ with nearly 9,000 new cases per year.
In recognition of this, an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) was set up in 2007 to examine the issue of TB in the UK. Yet, according to Dr Mario Raviglione, Director of the Global TB programme at WHO, despite the APPG’s best efforts, the issue continues to lack the necessary funding and focus.
The APPG recently released their latest report and recommendations in which they called for the implementation of a national strategy and increased UK commitment to the Global Fund.
Talk at the Sixty-Sixth World Health Assembly has centred on the emergence of new Multi Drug-Resistant strains of TB (MDR-TB), which is resistant to front line drug treatment, requiring more complex, lengthy and therefore expensive therapy.
Whilst 60 per cent of cases of MDR-TB are located ‘over there’ – in the Russian Federation, China, Philippines, India, Pakistan and South Africa – instances of the disease have doubled in the UK in the last decade. Without intervention the trend is set to continue upward.
Andrew George MP, APPG chair, said, “While the majority of developed countries (notably the US) have achieved sustained reductions in the number of cases, TB rates continue to rise here.”
In the WHO series of reports on TB published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases (March), whilst most cases of MDR-TB were found in patients born outside of the UK, resistance in London to one of the key front line TB drugs was found to be highest in UK born patients.
Attributed to the outbreak of TB in London that has continued over a decade, it points to the potentially lethal implications of not tackling TB head on and immediately.
TB is one of the biggest infectious disease killers worldwide. It is on a par with HIV/AIDS with around 1.4 million people are killed each year, compared to 1.7 million deaths from HIV/AIDS.
UK All Party Parliamentary Group report on TB – Drug Resistant Tuberculosis: Old disease: New Threat – led by Andrew George MP
Drug-resistant tuberculosis: time for visionary political leadership in The Lancet Infectious Diseases 24th March 2013
And what is the situation in India? Read on…
Megson and Ranganathan were participants in a workshop on the role of journalism and public health on the sidelines of the World Health Assembly in Geneva, May 2013

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