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Tuberculosis in the Pacific Island Countries

Tuberculosis in the Pacific Island Countries

On a global scale, the burden of TB in the Pacific is relatively small, but in some Pacific Island Countries, for example, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, and Solomon Islands, their individual case notification rates are higher than the average notification rate of 95 per 100000 population in the Western Pacific Region (Global tuberculosis report 2017, WHO). Pacific island countries and areas present specific challenges for TB control in ensuring universal access to quality TB care for all people, especially high-risk and vulnerable populations such as children and elderly people, people in poor communities and remote islands and people with co-morbidities and other risk factors, particularly HIV, diabetes and tobacco use.

66th session of the World Health
Organisation Regional Committee for the
Western Pacific (WHO)

The emergence of Multi-Drug Resistance TB (MDR-TB) and Extensively Drug-Resistant TB (XDR-TB) pose new challenges in these resource-scarce settings with inadequate laboratory support.  An infectious disease associated with poverty and overcrowding, TB can be controlled and cured with proper management of cases and better diagnostics. People with active TB can infect 10 – 15 other people through close contact over the course of one year and without proper treatment, close to 45% of people with TB will die.

In response to the WHA endorsement of the new global strategy, WHO in the Western Pacific Region has translated the strategy into possible actions in the Regional Framework for Action on the implementation of the End TB Strategy in the Western Pacific 2016-2020, which was endorsed by the sixty-sixth regional committee (WPR/RC66.R3). The framework outlines actions by governments and all partners to provide patient-centered care, pursue policies and systems that enable prevention and care, and drive research and innovations needed to end the TB epidemic in line with Sustainable Development Goals.

TB ward in Tungaru Central Hospital in
South Tarawa - POLHN (WHO/Yoshi
Shimizu)

 It also calls for building strong national systems for prevention and care for TB through whole-governmental and whole-societal approaches.   The healthcare professionals in the Pacific have limited options when it comes to furthering their education or keeping up to par with the change in medical science regarding TB. To assist doctors, nurses and members of other health cadres in advancing their knowledge on TB, the WHO Division of Pacific Technical Support office in Fiji has developed an online TB Essentials Training Course that is available on the Pacific Open Learning Health Network (POLHN). POLHN provides a full range of free online health courses with certificates for healthcare professionals.

This course has been specifically developed to provide knowledge to healthcare professionals on a range of topics from TB Case Detection, Case Management, Infection Control, Contact Tracing and Monitoring & Evaluation of TB Prevention and Care. These topics are divided into six modules, and the beauty of this course is that it is self-paced, hence, allowing the healthcare professionals to complete it at their own pace and earn their online TB training with a certificate. Similar to other online courses, there is a quiz at the end of each module, which students need to complete successfully in order to obtain their certificate of completion.

Upon successful completion, students will be more confident in all aspects of TB care, prevention and treatment, hence, assisting the National TB Programs (NTP) in their respective countries to ultimately achieve the goals of the END TB Strategy.