Bhutan joined the Regional and International Community in observing the World TB Day on 24th March, 2017. The day was observed in Bajo Higher Secondary School with a theme “Unite to End TB – Leave No one Behind”. The day was graced by His Excellency Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk, Minister of Health. The other invitees and guests present during the event were Hon’ble Member of Parliament Dasho Kinga, Dr.Lobzang Dorji from WHO CO, Dr.Karma Lhazeen, Director[Department of Public Health], Regional and sector heads of Wangdue Dzongkhag administration, Leaders of the Local Government, officials from Royal Bhutan Army, Royal Bhutan Police, Business Communities, VHWs, Principal, teachers and students of Bajo Higher Secondary School, trainees of Vocational Training Institute and the public gathered on the day.
The Hon’ble Health Minister informed the gathering that, we have all gathered here to observe this year’s World TB Day with the theme “Unite to End TB- Leave No One Behind”. His Excellency stated that the main aim of observing this day is to create awareness and educate public on Tuberculosis which today, still remains an epidemic in much of the world causing deaths of many.
TB is a communicable disease that is preventable and curable if early diagnosis and treatment through Directly Observed Treatment(DOT) of 6 to 8 months are ensured. However, most TB patients will start feeling better in the few weeks of treatment, therefore they STOP taking medicines resulting in incomplete treatment. This sets a dangerous precedence as partial or incomplete treatment leads to development of resistance to TB medicines resulting in MDR-TB.
In order to understand the root causes of TB and its treatment, everyone should be given the opportunity of education to understand the importance of a good health. However, during the day, His Excellency highlighted that TB and MDR-TB is a major public health problem which is of a great concern for Ministry of health and urged all for the greater ownership to be responsible to fight against TB by educating yourself first and then educating your family, people in your community about the causes of TB and its outcome.
Although, Bhutan is considered a low TB burden country in the region; TB is still considered a priority public health problem mostly affecting productive age groups of 15-44 years.
Despite having made progress in the treatment outcome, Ministry is challenged with increasing number of MDR-TB cases, TB-HIV co-infection, sub-optimal implementation of DOTs, delays in diagnosis and treatment, But with the introduction of rapidly diagnostic GeneXpert machine in 2016 and improvement in the road infrastructure, Ministry will be able to detect more number of TB cases and eventually Leave No One Behind in terms of access to public health services provided in the country.
His Excellency also informed that the, fight against TB and MDR-TB is not the responsibility of the health sector alone but of all family members of TB patients and the community at large and requires concerted efforts with multi sectoral approach to represent your country and people to help educate and encourage those with COUGH FOR MORE THAN TWO WEEKS to visit the nearest health facility to be screened for TB and to play a greater role in ensuring that their patients take their full course of treatment of 6 to 8 month for better outcome.
His Excellency Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk, also emphasized that observation of World TB Day is considered to be one of the many important occasions to advocate public on health education in the country. His Excellency also shared the global report, 2016, that approximately 10.4 million were reported with TB cases, of which 45.6% have been reported in South East Asia Region. And of the 580,000 cases of MDR-TB reported globally, about 34.5% were in South East Asia Region. Besides the cases related to MDR-TB, Bhutan has also detected with one XDR-TB case recently. Not to forget, Bhutan is also one of the countries under South East Asia Region, thereby Bhutan also shares brunt of such global consequences.
His Excellency concluded the day with the key message that the Ministry will remain grateful to all our development partners without whom the achievements made so far would not have been possible. We also look forward to their continued support to help achieving the milestones and targets of TB elimination strategy to “Unite to End TB and Leave No One Behind” and commit to make Bhutan a TB Free Nation Collectively. With this, His Excellency wished the august gathering a Happy World TB Day.
The Ministry of Health would also like to thank Wangdue Dzongkhag administration, district health sector, Principal, teachers and students of Bajo Higher Secondary School for your active participation and support without which this event wouldn’t have been a successful one. Thank you ALL.