New campaign is launched in England to increase awareness of tuberculosis

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 25 February 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c1089
  1. Peter Moszynski
  1. 1London

    A new campaign to “radically boost awareness” of tuberculosis in England was launched on 25 February at a parliamentary briefing of MPs, health organisations, and patients’ groups.

    Entitled “The truth about TB,” the campaign centres on the experiences of people who have or used to have tuberculosis, whose stories are included in a new DVD and website. All primary care trusts and local authorities in England and key charities have been mailed the DVD, and a series of information leaflets have been translated into 20 different languages.

    The charity TB Alert is spearheading the campaign, in which it will work with national health agencies, strategic health authorities, NHS trusts, local authorities, patients’ groups, and charities.

    Mike Mandelbaum, chief executive of TB Alert, explained that the campaign was intended to rectify the “clear lack of awareness” of tuberculosis among high risk groups (including the Asian and black African communities, substance abusers, and prisoners), health professionals, voluntary sector organisations, and key workers involved with these groups, as well as among the general public.

    He maintained that this “awareness gap” could be undermining efforts to reduce the incidence of tuberculosis in England. He suggested that local NHS trusts with high rates of the disease needed to ensure that their awareness campaigns were based on “strong audience insight” and were “tailored and fit for purpose” in getting the message out to groups at risk, such as Asian, black African, and homeless people.

    He said, “There are almost 8000 cases of TB in England. Awareness is vital in reducing the health and economic burden of TB. Many people aren’t sure about the symptoms, or think it’s a disease of the past, meaning that critical warning signs can go unnoticed, cases go undetected, and treatment is received too late.”

    Other speakers at the briefing included Ailsa Wight, head of the Department of Health’s infectious diseases programme; John Watson, head of the respiratory diseases department at the Health Protection Agency; and Ann Dennis, a former patient and member of the TB Action Group, a group for people affected by tuberculosis that is facilitated by TB Alert.

    The briefing heard that greater awareness of tuberculosis could lead to earlier diagnosis, with benefits for patients and reduced costs for the NHS. It could help combat stigma and myths that may delay presentation and impede tracing of people with the disease. It could also help to increase the percentage of patients who complete their treatment, which should reduce the growth of multidrug resistant strains of the disease.

    Mr Mandelbaum said, “We will support the local NHS and partners to ensure they’re doing all they can to raise TB awareness within their locality. If we all work together, we can defeat TB.”

    Next month the Royal Society of Medicine is marking World TB Day on 24 March with a one day conference entitled “Tuberculosis: the forgotten plague.”


    Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c1089