In October 2010, PSI/Laos joined the global effort to combat one of the most devastating diseases on the planet: Tuberculosis. In Laos, TB represents one of the highest burden diseases, with a national prevalence of 260 cases per 100,000 of the population, and there exists a great need to improve case detection and access to TB DOTS treatment.
The strategy for PSI/Laos’ TB program is comprised of two components. Emphasizing active case detection, an evidence-based advocacy, communication and social mobilization (ACSM) campaign to build awareness among those most vulnerable to the disease is now implemented in high-risk villages and, in the future, will be conducted in TB hotspots such as construction sites, dams and dormitories. Key elements of this outreach campaign are active TB screening and sputum collection, conducted in collaboration with our national TB partners at provincial, district and village levels, and diagnosis in district TB labs.
The second component of PSI/Laos’ strategy is focused on increasing availability of high-quality DOTS treatment through the private sector. By the end of 2010, PSI launched its first social franchise in Laos: the Sun Quality Health network. With a focus on building capacity of private sector providers to detect TB cases and administer TB DOTS, PSI/Laos has since enrolled over 40 private clinics eager to provide high-quality care to the people of Laos.
A brief description of PSI/Laos’ TB Program:
In the words of the Stop TB Partnership, World TB Day 2011 marks the halfway point of a two year campaign, On the move against Tuberculosis, the primary mandate of which is to “inspire innovation in TB research and care.”
SMS Messages to Raise Awareness and Increase Case Detection
Collaborating with a local mobile phone company, PSI/Laos sends routine SMS messages to Lao people at risk of TB. Messages are sent to individuals within the PSI TB network – mainly those who have been exposed to information-education communications and interpersonal communications activities by PSI TB outreach workers. TB SMS messages read “Coughing for more than 2 weeks? It might be TB,” and then follow with contact information for the TB Health Services team at PSI/Laos. Since launching this initiative, PSI/Laos’ TB Health Services team has received calls from individuals seeking a range of information about TB, PSI/Laos and other health issues, like HIV.
Google Mapping to Monitor Coverage of SQH Clinics
Another example of integrating innovative technology into program activities is the use of Google Earth to monitor coverage of TB services. Initially developed to track coverage of condoms and STI products and services, PSI/Laos is now using this tool to monitor location and demographic data for clinics in the Sun Quality Health (SQH) network. This also allows PSI to identify possible gaps in coverage for TB services. As SQH clinics integrate additional health services, this information will be monitored using this tool as well.
Snapshot of SQH Clinics in Google Earth. Newly enrolled SQH clinics are currently being added.
On a personal note, being involved in the launch of this new TB program has been an incredible experience. While there remains much work to be done, we are eager to understand the impact of these innovations on health. Working together as a platform to implement these new technologies means that every day represents an opportunity for us to learn something new and we are all excited to see what comes next!