Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Call for unified strategy to tackle tuberculosis in UAE

The Gulf Today, 2 March 2010

THE UAE should implement unified methods to tackle prevalence of tuberculosis in the country, developing a collective TB registry with the involvement of the private health sector, urged health experts.
They called for developing an integrated advocacy, communication and social mobilisation strategy focusing on combating the social stigma, which often surrounds patients affected with TB and their family.
Formation of the unified policies and national TB registry on tuberculosis will ensure availability of data and transparency of the information at a national level, said the experts who participated in a workshop organised by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA).
The experts from the Ministry of Health (MoH), Health Authority-Abu Dhabi (HAAD), SEHA, Dubai Municipality, Dubai Police and representatives from the private healthcare discussed ways to address the impact of tuberculosis and prevent new cases of the disease in the country.
The workshop urged to give permission to the private healthcare sector to treat TB cases under strict rules and regulations, extending their role to contribute to the management of TB cases in the country.
Essa Kazim, CEO of the health policy and strategy sector at the DHA, said that different authorities and private healthcare sector should work together to effectively manage and treat the disease and prevent further cases of TB in the country.
Representatives from the health authorities should be appointed to oversee the follow-up of TB patients and to maintain an updated record and registry, she added.
"Pulmonary tuberculosis has re-emerged as a priority public health problem globally. The healthcare sector across the world is facing the new challenges posed by this disease such as is the emergence of multi-drug resistant and the correlation of TB to the HIV epidemic," Kazim referred to the recent WHO report on the increasing incidence of tuberculosis globally.
According to him, the DHA's aim is to update and support the existing health promoting policies and laws regarding the TB control, which can be achieved through effective coordination with different stakeholders in the country.
Dr Ali Al Marzooqi, director of primary healthcare at the DHA reinforced the need to work with all concerned authorities to tackle the health issue.
"The statistics confirm that there is an increasing incidence of TB, especially since a significant number of cases belong to high TB prevalent countries," he added.
"The existing regulations on tuberculosis treatment should be reviewed and amended, focusing the priority issue of developing a unified health management and information system," he pointed out.
Dr Marzooqi said that operational processes should also be standardised to manage and treat the disease and strengthen the national programme for pulmonary tuberculosis in the UAE, by forming a national TB committee consisting of members from different health authorities.
The workshop also mentioned the need to look at the method adopted by the GCC States, which have pre-approved health centres in countries that have a high prevalence of TB.
"Expatriates who travel to the GCC from these countries for employment need to get a clearance from the pre-approved medical fitness centres, stating that they are free of any communicable diseases such as TB and HIV," noted Dr Marzouki.
"This takes place before the expatriate visits the country and thus helps reduce the number of people who enter the country with the TB. In the UAE, the medical fitness test is not conducted in the home country and is done after the individual is in the UAE," he explained.
The workshop stressed on the importance of preventive methods and the need for unified action to address this healthcare concern effectively.

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