DOH renews commitment to fight TB

By Analou De Vera

The Department of Health (DOH) renewed its commitment to fight tuberculosis (TB), as the World Tuberculosis Day is being observed on Sunday.

The DOH said that the country is committed to find and treat 2.5 million TB cases by 2022. It also targets to reduce the number of deaths linked to TB by half –from 22,000 to 11,000.

Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III (CZAR DANCEL / MANILA BULLETIN)
Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III (CZAR DANCEL / MANILA BULLETIN)

“Due to advances in TB screening, diagnosis, and treatment, the country is scaling up rapid molecular tests as the initial diagnostic test countrywide,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said as its initial salvo in the fight against the disease.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said that “in the Philippines, over 500,000 people get sick with tuberculosis every year.”

“TB remains the world’s deadliest infectious killer. Each day, nearly 4500 people lose their lives to TB and close to 30,000 people fall ill with this preventable and curable disease,” the WHO said.

“The time to act is now. Managing the TB burden towards eliminating it is our call to action to our stakeholders and partners. We need to find, treat and prevent TB. Let us end TB now,” said the health chief.

Health advocates, meanwhile, renewed its call to lawmakers to pass a high tobacco tax rate to help fight TB.

“Significantly raising the tax on cigarettes is akin to a health promotion measure that will prevent Filipinos from further risk to TB development as well as aid in preventing increased risk to treatment failure and development of resistance to TB drugs,” said Dr. Maricar Limpin of Action on Smoking and Health Philippines.

“The tax increase will generate funds to help augment the budget of the Department of Health, and lend extra support in the efforts to provide potentially better outcome in the country’s initiatives to end TB,” she added.

Limpin said that by raising the tax on cigarettes, it will help discourage the “vulnerable sector such as the young and the poor” from smoking and prevent more people at risk from developing the said disease.

“For many years now, TB continues to be one of the top ten leading causes of mortality in the country, and studies show that smoking greatly increases the risk of contracting the disease,” she said.