In honour of World TB day, which took place yesterday (March 24), the Western Cape Government announced that is has joined forces with a number of partners in the civil society and the private sector to develop an urgent, targeted and data-driven response to TB, which has been on the rise over the last 12 months. 

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 rates increased over the last 12 months, with infections hitting a high of 21% in September 2020. This indicates that health officials are not testing enough people to pick up new TB cases.

In response to the increase in TB cases, Premier Alan Winde announced 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.

As part of the fight against TB in the Western Cape, there will be a 3-year program that 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 the following steps: 

  • 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. In order to achieve this goal the Western Cape Health Department will do the following:

  1. Address the technical, behavioural and organizational impediments to effective data utilization
  2. Entrench data-driven continuous quality improvement methods to improving health outcomes
  3. Use real-time data to link people with TB and HIV to care, and ensure they are retained in the appropriate care.
  4. 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,” the Western Cape Government explained in a statement.

Picture: Pixabay

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