19 May 2010 - Geneva - The editors of a new series on tuberculosis published by The Lancet call for tuberculosis to be addressed as a development issue - as opposed to simply approaching it as a medical or public health problem.
"Efforts to control tuberculosis should therefore include more than just ministries of health. Policy and practice must also include ministries responsible for finance, housing social development and education", wrote The Lancet editors in the opening comments to the series. "There is an urgent need to assess interventions for social and economic determinants such as malnutrition, alcohol use, poor housing, indoor air pollution and poverty." They also note that treatment-related actions, while saving million of lives, will be insufficient to reach the goal of a world free of tuberculosis.
Those comments were echoed by Dr Mario Raviglione, Director of WHO Stop TB Department, during the launch of the special series at the World Health Assembly.
"We are seeing major achievements in tuberculosis control, with up to six million lives saved and 36 million people cured since 1995. But to reach the ultimate goal of elimination, we need to scale up early diagnosis and treatment of patients, encourage the development and implementation of bold health policies that can have a lasting impact on the pandemic, position TB within a broader development agenda, and enable and promote intensified research to bring forward new and better TB drugs, vaccine and diagnostics," said Dr Raviglione.
Over the next two months, The Lancet will publish eight separate papers with the first looking at TB control and elimination. Elimination of TB by 2050 is a long term goal of the Stop TB Partnership's Global Plan to Stop TB. Other issues to be featured, week by week, will focus on drug-resistant TB, TB/HIV, new diagnostics, drugs and vaccines and health systems. The series concludes with a call to action.
The call to action paper also includes a brand new initiative to ensure TB does not remain a "neglected sister" compared to other major global diseases. The initiative - The Lancet TB Observatory - will be managed by a network of specialists and has been developed with collaboration from WHO, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and authors from The Lancet series. The Observatory will help augment and validate latest information on advances and progress in tuberculosis control and provide a global platform for expert analysis of this information. The Stop TB Partnership will host the Observatory's website.
The dignitaries present at the launch included Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General; Dr Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global Fund; Dr Kebede Worku, State Minister of Health, Ethiopia; Dr Mphu Keneiloe Ramatlapeng, Minister of Health and Social Welfare of Lesotho; Mr Benedict Xosa, Minister of Health of Swaziland; Dr Hiro Nakatani, WHO Assistant Director-General; Dr Mario Raviglione, Director WHO Stop TB Department; and Dr Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet.
To read The Lancet TB Series and learn more about The Lancet TB Observatory, please go to: www.thelancet.com/series/tuberculosis