Stakeholders seek innovation and collaboration to end tuberculosis in Asia Pacific

December 29, 2021 | 13:00
On November 30 and December 7, Johnson & Johnson, together with the National Tuberculosis Programmes of Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, hosted the Asia-Pacific Tuberculosis Forum 2021.

The forum was convened with the goal of advancing regional progress toward ending tuberculosis (TB) – which, despite being preventable and treatable, remains one of the leading causes of death from an infectious disease in Asia-Pacific.

With the theme “United Against TB”, the two-day virtual forum on November 30 and December 7 was attended by almost 500 participants, including leaders, policymakers, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and clinicians from across the Asia-Pacific. Speakers from Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam shared local best practices, learnings, challenges, and recommendations with the mutual aim of achieving the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goal of ending TB by 2030.

Johnson & Johnson has been a committed partner in the global fight against TB for more than two decades.

A key discussion area was on improving case detection, which remains one of the most significant barriers in the fight against TB. In the Asia-Pacific, TB incidence was estimated at 6.1 million in 2020, but only 3.9 million cases were notified. Notably, the WHO Southeast Asia region carries the highest burden for TB globally, reporting the largest number of new cases (43 per cent) in 2020.

Four in 10 people with TB in the region go undiagnosed and untreated, a situation exacerbated by health disruptions caused by COVID-19. This in turn has led to the number of people diagnosed and treated in worst-affected countries fall to 2008 levels, threatening progress toward ending TB.

Reflecting on the forum, Ana-Maria Ionescu, Global TB Franchise lead, Johnson & Johnson Global Public Health, said, “The forum demonstrated the determination, focus, and innovation of the TB community and national TB programmes in the Asia-Pacific, which have been critical in maintaining lifesaving, continuity of essential TB services for so many people living with TB, and mitigating some of the worst impacts of COVID-19. Johnson & Johnson is deeply committed to unlocking innovation at local, regional, and global levels to find the millions of missing, undiagnosed people that are living with tuberculosis – and in this way contribute to the goal that all of us share – making TB a disease of the past”.

Taking a roadmap approach for building future patient finding strategies, discussions centred around leveraging innovative thinking, technologies, and public-private partnership approaches that accelerate implementation impact.

Stakeholders seek innovation and collaboration to end tuberculosis in Asia Pacific

Associate professor Nguyen Viet Nhung, director of the National Lung Hospital and manager of the National Tuberculosis Programme in Vietnam, said, “Vietnam’s TB burden remains high. TB treatment coverage was only at 58 per cent in 2020, driven by barriers such as missing TB cases and inadequate TB prevention. We welcome the partnership from a global healthcare leader like Johnson & Johnson, alongside our work with local authorities, agencies, and civil organisations to accelerate the progression to end TB in Vietnam, and ensure that no one is left behind.”

The forum also stressed the importance of mobilising youth to end TB. Young people aged 15-34 are disproportionately affected by TB, carrying the heaviest burdens of the disease. Johnson & Johnson recognises that a key first step is in enabling their meaningful participation in national TB efforts and will be exploring initiatives aimed at activating youths as agents of change in the region.

Jacki Hatfield, global strategic partnership lead TB, Johnson & Johnson said, “To ensure that no young person is left behind, we need to recognise youths as agents of change capable of addressing pertinent issues in tackling tuberculosis, such as gaps in awareness and access, as well as confronting stigma and discrimination. Through our ongoing work, we look forward to advancing engagement with youths and amplifying their voices to end TB.”

Through the case studies presented, the forum also brought to the forefront the importance of public-private partnerships to end TB. New, bold, and creative steps are required to disrupt the trajectory of this disease, and such collaborations allow the agility, expertise, and industry reach that the private sectors possess to complement local government efforts, and create momentum behind the TB movement.

Johnson & Johnson has been a committed partner in the global fight against TB for more than two decades. Its comprehensive 10-year initiative aims to improve the global detection of undiagnosed TB cases, broaden access to treatment, and accelerate R&D to develop new tools that will be needed to end TB. As part of this commitment, Johnson & Johnson is actively collaborating with partners regionally and globally to comprehensively address the challenge of TB.

By Song Thuy

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