WCG and partners developing emergency response to TB, R80mn in funding secured
This World TB Day, the Western Cape Government has joined hands with our partners in civil society and the private sector to develop an urgent, targeted and data-driven response to TB.
This is because the TB epidemic is an emergency that must be fought with the same courage and determination as we have demonstrated in our Covid-19 response over the last year.
Globally, it is estimated that the Covid-19 pandemic has set back the fight against TB by between 5 and 8 years and could result in an additional 6.3 million cases of TB between 2020 and 2025.
In the Western Cape, TB test positivity rates increased over the last year, hitting a high of 21% in September 2020. This indicates that we were not testing enough people to pick up new TB cases.
The reality is that the Covid-19 pandemic was a “hammer blow” to our efforts to respond to TB, and we must now step up the fight drastically.
I intend to do so as Premier of the Western Cape and co-chairperson of the Provincial Council on AIDS and TB.
And I am extremely excited by the support and enthusiasm that exists amongst our partners in civil society, other levels of government and the private sector. There is indeed a common resolve to step up the fight in this province.
I am accordingly pleased to announce today that this partnership has already started work to develop a detailed implementation plan for TB, which will be presented to the Provincial Council on AIDS and TB within the next 30 days.
I am also pleased to announce that the Western Cape Department of Health, Metro Health Services and City of Cape Town, with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, have committed to an ambitious effort to magnify their focus on Tuberculosis from 2021 onwards.
This 3-year program will provide catalytic funding of R80 million to work on rapidly identifying people with TB, linking them to care and ensuring that patients are effectively treated. This effort is based on using a combination of innovation and the wealth of data available through the Provincial Health Data Centre to drive a patient centric approach to TB control in the Western Cape.
This data-led approach to fighting TB will include:
- Introducing TB screening in men’s health programmes, as more men are infected by TB than women.
- Using technology in the fight against TB, including social media messaging and the introduction of a TB self-screening app similar to the Covid-19 self-screening questionnaire.
- Systematic screening for all HIV negative people accessing health services.
- Introducing a publicly accessible TB dashboard similar to our award-winning Covid-19 website, to drive behaviour change in communities.
- Using the systems, we have put in place for Covid-19 including medicines distribution, telemedicine, call centres, client and contact tracing for TB management and response.
The overall goal of the project is to strengthen the health system’s ability to respond to public health needs, including TB, HIV, other chronic diseases and preventive services.
To achieve this goal, we will:
- Address the technical, behavioral and organizational impediments to effective data utilization
- Entrench data-driven continuous quality improvement methods to improving health outcomes
- Use real-time data to link people with TB and HIV to care, and ensure they are retained in the appropriate care.
- Implement data driven approaches to strengthen the implementation of new health policies.
Our Covid-19 response has also shown us the power of combining a health systems response, with behaviour change and whole of society support. It has also demonstrated our ability to be more agile, innovative and responsive. We fully intend to harness these lessons to ensure that we prevent TB infection, link people to treatment and ultimately save lives in the Western Cape.
Today, I call on residents, NGOs, faith-based organisations, civil society and in the private sector to join us in the fight against TB. I have no doubt that if we stand together now with a common resolve we can defeat TB in the Western Cape and help achieve the well-being and dignity that every single person in our province deserves.