Despite advances in medical science and technology, about 70 Pinoys still succumb and die daily from tuberculosis (TB), a serious illness caused by bacteria that affect the lungs.
In her speech during the World TB Day Friday, Department of Health Officer in Charge Maria Rosario Vergeire described the disease as curable but with 1.6 million recorded deaths in 2021.
“We are only one of the eight countries that account for two-thirds of the estimated global cases. The Philippines is also the fourth-largest contributor of TB cases at 7 percent of the global total,” she said.
“For every 100,000 Filipinos, an estimated 650 individuals were infected with TB in 2021, a huge difference from our 554 per 100,000 from the year prior.”
TB incidence is predicted to increase by 130 percent and TB deaths by 170 percent by 2025. According to the World Health Organization Global Tuberculosis Report 2022, the Philippines is one of the top 10 countries that accounted for more than 90% reduction in case of people who are newly diagnosed with TB in 2021 compared with those in 2019.
In terms of TB treatment, Vergeire said the National Capital Region has reached its target treatment enrolment followed by Calabarzon, Central Luzon, and Western Visayas with high enrolment rates. The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordillera Administrative Region continue to lag behind.
“Our problem with TB is a vicious cycle. This disease primarily affects the poor as poverty exposes individuals to TB’s risk factors, such as poor nutrition, crowded and poorly ventilated environments, smoking, alcohol use disorders, HIV, and diabetes,” among others, she said.
Studies show that the number of unemployed and the number of people living under the poverty line increase when the poor are infected with TB due to its treatment cost. TB, as a major health equity issue, could be addressed by improving access to health care services and the living conditions of Filipinos.
Vergeire said the Philippine Acceleration Plan for TB employs a whole-of system, whole-of-government, and whole-of-society approach and recognizes the role of other national government agencies.