MANILA — The Department of Health on Monday called on all local government units to prioritize the implementation of a tuberculosis program in their respective areas.
In a press briefing, Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa stressed the need to increase active case finding in target populations as well as intensified and active case findings in health facilities and systematic screening for health workers.
Target populations include the urban and rural poor, workplaces such as those of miners, construction workers, public transport drivers, garment factory workers, and the like, and those in congregated settings such as jails, detention centers, residential homes or residential care facilities for the elderly.
Dr. Kezia Lorraine Rosario, DOH action officer for the presidential directives on TB, said there is also a need to strengthen treatment and testing capacities and compliance with standards of diagnostic clinics and facilities and ensure stock-outs will be eliminated and testing capacities will be broadened and expanded in each LGU.
There is also a need, she added, to provide sufficient budgetary and work force complement for the implementation of the program, intensify advocacy campaigns for public awareness and intervention, boost referral system in health care provider networks for TB especially in very rural areas when access of referral and diagnostic tests are very few, and ensure the health system is strengthened across all levels.
The DOH also said it is important to enhance cooperation between the public and private sector to curb the spread of TB in households and communities.
Herbosa said problems in logistics and supply chain management should be addressed to ensure availability of drugs in health facilities.
In appointing Herbosa as DOH chief, President Marcos has instructed that the high number of TB cases in the country should be addressed.
"Most of the problems in the increase in cases of TB is really more of social than the treatment because the treatment is available. It’s very easy for us doctors to treat tuberculosis, to diagnose it. But the problem is really in the social determinant, which is informal settlers living in one small space that they get to re-infect each other," Herbosa said.
Rosario said: "Case findings are being ramped up since 2021 and we are expecting that these catchup activities to be equal to or exceed pre-pandemic case findings by 2022 and also by 2023.
"With the directives of President Marcos, now is the right time to address the tuberculosis burden of the country using a whole of society approach with full participation of national and local governments, academe, and development partners and the private sector and practitioners," she added.
The DOH will also issue guidelines on a shorter treatment plan for TB as recommended by the World Health Organization, so as to ensure that falling out of the treatment course will be lessened.
Herbosa said the WHO recommended adopting a 4-month treatment regimen, which is 2 months of certain drugs and another 2 months of a different set of drugs.
Treatment for TB requires at least 6 months.
Herbosa said the short court therapy may be implemented by the third quarter this year.
Based on the 2022 Global TB Report, the Philippines is 1 of the 8 countries that account for two-third of the estimated global TB cases, with the Philippines as one of the countries that contribute to most of the estimated increase in TB deaths.
In 2021, the Philippines ranked third among the top contributing countries to the global drop in TB case notifications due to COVID-19-related restrictions, with 37 percent decrease in 2020 and 21 percent drop in 2021 compared to 2019.
In 2021, the highest case notification rates were reported in the NCR, Region 4-A or Calabarzon and Region 6.