Colombia strengthens the fights against tuberculosis

Forty-six Pacific coast communities affected by tuberculosis have shown progress in the fight against an increase in cases of the sickness.

The project “Strengthening of the strategy ‘Stop tuberculosis in 46 prioritized communities of Colombia’” is financed by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. Since January 2012, the project has collected information related to topics such as nutrition, food security, housing, health, drinking water, and education for victims of the armed conflict, as well as migratory processes and social networks in geographic areas with limited access to health services. This has resulted in a very useful social guide.

Due to its interdisciplinary team of community representatives, doctors, epidemiologists, and nurses, the project has achieved broad coverage in isolated places with high levels of vulnerability. Training sessions were also held to explain the information collection form to community representatives and project nurses.

The project is permanently monitored by the OPS and receives technical support and budget transfers from the Colombian Ministry of Health and Social Protection. Support provided by governmental and non-governmental agencies such as the Country Coordinating Mechanism, the Colombian Anti-tuberculosis League, the National Health Institute, FONADE, and IOM has also been crucial.

The first phase of the project ends in March this year and has received support and coordination from local authorities, governments, mayor’s offices, departmental and municipal health secretariats, and indigenous health provider institutions in the departments of Chocó and Nariño.

In Colombia, tuberculosis (TB) is concentrated in urban centers. However, the highest numbers of cases are in isolated rural areas where basic needs indexes are not satisfied, according to the Country Coordinating Mechanism in its 2013 annual report.

Due to the fact that this project is centered in areas that are hard to access on the Pacific coast, an identified priority was to advocate for integrated interventions that provide social support to patients. This resulted in the need for a monitoring system that would conduct a diagnostic of the social determinants of health in patients with tuberculosis, in addition to community activities and strengthening of health institutions.

The project representatives and agents have interviewed patients with tuberculosis and their families while they conduct activities seeking to identify respiratory symptoms, and during home visits to patients diagnosed through community evaluations.

Meetings have also been held with institutions in Chocó, Cauca, Nariño and Valle del Cauca to use the partial results to advocate for improved adherence to anti-tuberculosis treatment.

This project has been key within the collection of activities supported by the National Tuberculosis Prevention and Control Program. This is mostly because of the technical assistance and knowledge transfer for local territories, in order to improve reporting on the illness. This intervention is innovative because it occurs at the community level and has been implemented through methodologies that allow the engagement of various social actors throughout the process.