Poverty reduction as effective as medicine in preventing TB

Poverty reduction as effective as medicine in preventing TB

A recent study published in Lancet Global Health has revealed that poverty reduction efforts are as effective at reducing tuberculosis (TB) as medicines and vaccines.

The study found that eradicating extreme poverty would reduce cases of TB by 84% by 2035.

Over 95% of deaths from TB occur in low and middle income countries, with the worst effected countries being India, Indonesia, China, Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria, and South Africa. These seven countries account for 64% of global TB cases.

The research focused on those living on less than $1.90 a day.

Daniel Carter, research fellow at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine commented:

“This study is important to show that preventative measures have great impact”

“We tend to only engage with TB patients when they are already ill, but this is not enough to eliminate TB. Poverty reduction could be just as effective in tackling the disease as drugs and vaccines.”

Saturday 24th March 2018 marked World Tuberculosis Day which raises awareness of the devastating consequences of TB.

TB is among the top 10 causes of death worldwide and the most damaging infectious disease, killing 1.7 million each year, or 4,500 people a day.

Although there is a vaccine for TB, its effectiveness is limted.

TB is deeply rooted in counties where human rights are limited, often effecting marginalised groups and vulnerable people the most. Factors such as malnutrition, poor housing and sanitation significantly increase TB vulnerability.

These include: migrants, refugees, ethnic minorities women and children.

The World Health Organisation have previously highlighted the role of social support and poverty alleviation in overcoming the disease.

A state led cash transfer programme in Brazil highlights the significant potential of overcoming TB by eradicating poverty.

Brazil’s Bolsa Familia scheme provides assistance to 14 million families (25% of the population) who have a household income of less than £30 a month. The programme provides £35 a month to each household and has halved extreme poverty in the region.

Although the programme is not targeted at TB reduction, it has resulted in a 10% decline in TB cases.

Daniel Carter added:

“Anti-poverty policies are available now and the evidence suggests they work. The battle to end TB is not just against a pathogen, but an ideology.”


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Image credit: World Health Organisation 

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