WHO appreciates MoH’s ‘’One Stop Mobile Diagnostic Van” program in combating TB in TL

WHO appreciates MoH’s ‘’One Stop Mobile Diagnostic Van” program in combating TB in TL

WHO. Images/CNBC

DILI, 08 november 2022 (TATOLI) – World Health Organization (WHO) appreciated the ‘’One Stop Mobile Diagnostic Van’’ program of the Ministry of Health to combat and reduce tuberculosis (TB) in the country.

According to the WHO, Timor-Leste has shown a reduction in the incidence of TB in 2021. The TB incidence in the country had been stagnant at 498 per 100,000 populations for the past many years, but in 2021, the incidence showed a 2.4% decline to 486 per 100,000.

Recently, the WHO in partnership with the Global Fund introduced the ‘One Stop Mobile Diagnostic Van’ to take TB diagnostics closer to the people and help in further reducing the incidence rate.

The van is equipped with digital X-ray and the TruNat TB test, a molecular test that diagnoses TB in one hour and also tests for resistance to the drug rifampicin. It also has an electronic medical record facility synchronized with Artificial Intelligence for reading digital X-ray films.

“To tackle TB, the country has undertaken several interventions including early detection, early treatment and introduction of better diagnostics facilities for the people,” said Arvind Mathur, WHO representative to the country. “The WHO country office has been providing technical assistance to the Ministry of Health in all these endeavors,” he added.

He added that Timor-Leste has transitioned to better TB diagnostics such as the GeneXpert, which is a molecular TB test. The country also improved TB prevention by wider rollout of prophylaxis treatment for children and adult contacts.

The report also highlighted two other positive trends in Timor-Leste – the country recorded a 91% success rate in TB treatment and the testing coverage with the use of rapid diagnostics at the time of diagnosis had improved to 32%. In comparison, the treatment success rate in 2019 was 88% and the testing coverage stood at 11%.

In 2021, there was nearly 15% increase in the number of people put on prophylaxis TB treatment compared to 2020. With technical support from the WHO country office, the Ministry of Health has also focussed on spreading awareness about the disease within the community so that every case is detected and is on treatment.

TB is caused by the mycobacterium tuberculosis, and it most often affects the lungs. TB spreads through the air when people with lung TB cough, sneeze, or spit. A person needs to inhale only a few germs to become infected. A number of risk factors and underlying medical conditions such as HIV, diabetes, malnutrition, tobacco, and substance use drive the TB cases and treatment outcomes.

In 2021, a TB vulnerability assessment survey conducted in Timor-Leste with the technical assistance of WHO showed that malnutrition and tobacco smoking were among the main vulnerability factors contributing to the disease.

These findings reflect the findings of the Global TB Report 2022, where under nutrition and smoking was among major drivers of TB in Timor-Leste.

“The WHO has been supporting the country to tackle malnutrition as well as curb the use of tobacco through advocacy and tobacco cessation clinics. These efforts are being undertaken not just for TB, which is a communicable disease, but also for several non-communicable diseases,” said Dr Mathur. 

Globally, an estimated 10.6 million people fell ill with TB in 2021, an increase of 4.5% from 2020, the TB report stated. The COVID-19 pandemic, undoubtedly, made it difficult for people to get diagnosis and treatment.

“The findings of the Global TB report are encouraging, but we definitely need to strive more to achieve the goal of ending TB completely and find the missing TB cases through an integrated approach to healthcare services delivery,” said dr. Odete Maria Freitas Belo, Minister of Health, Timor-Leste. “The pandemic provided us several opportunities for capacity building and improving our interventions at the grassroots. Together with Saúde na Família, these learning will have a positive impact on TB and other public health issues in the near future,” she said.

Journalist: José Belarmino De Sá

Editor: Nelia Borges


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