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Nghe An, Vietnam, November 14, 2017—Increasing numbers of children in four districts of Vietnam's Nghe An province are being protected against tuberculosis (TB) through a partnership focused on strengthening detection, treatment, and management of the deadly disease.
The Breath for Life project, a partnership between PATH, the Nghe An Tuberculosis and Lung Disease Hospital, and Johnson & Johnson, has supported public and private health care workers and facilities to increase the detection and early treatment of children with TB, and to increase the number of children taking preventive treatment due to being in close contact with people who have contracted the illness.
Through the Breath for Life project's focus on improved detection, 148 children were diagnosed with TB in the districts of Dien Chau, Quynh Luu, Nam Dan, and Yen Thanh in 2016, double the 74 diagnosed in these districts in 2015. In the first nine months of 2017, an additional 87 children were diagnosed with TB. The increased number of diagnoses means that more children with previously undetected TB are now being treated.
TB is a leading cause of mortality in Vietnam, accounting for almost 14,000 deaths per year. The country is one of the most TB-affected in the world, and is in the World Health Organization's list of 30 countries with the highest TB burden. Out of Vietnam's 63 provinces, Nghe An has the tenth largest TB burden. However, despite these high figures, it is estimated that many more children are at risk, and that up to 90 percent of cases of TB in children remain undetected.
"Breath for Life built the capacity of health staff at all levels to detect TB, and strengthened referral systems and connections between private health care providers, community health centers, and district and provincial level hospitals for prompt diagnosis," said Dr. Dau Minh Quang, Director of the Nghe An Tuberculosis and Lung Disease Hospital. "This has greatly increased the number of pediatric TB cases being detected in the districts of Dien Chau, Quynh Luu, Nam Dan, and Yen Thanh."
TB is a contagious disease, and those with TB are at risk of passing it on to the people close to them. Children under the age of five who are in close contact with people with TB can take isoniazid preventive therapy (IPT), which reduces the risk of developing the disease.
Before Breath for Life was initiated in the four districts, 77 percent of eligible children in contact with people with TB were taking IPT. By October 2017, over 99 percent of eligible children were enrolled in IPT.
"Breath for Life resulted in a fourfold increase in TB preventive therapy for children," said Dr. Kimberly Green, Director of the TB/HIV program from PATH. "This was made possible through equipping community health workers and volunteers to systematically screen children in close contact with those recently diagnosed with TB and provide preventive therapy to them—making it much easier to keep children healthy."
At a workshop held today, PATH, Johnson & Johnson, and the Nghe An Tuberculosis and Lung Disease Hospital presented the results of Breath for Life and the lessons learned from the project, welcoming discussion about the next steps for improving pediatric TB diagnosis, treatment, and management. The workshop was attended by leaders of the National TB Control Program (NTP), the Nghe An Provincial Health Department and Provincial TB and Lung Disease Hospital, and district hospitals and health centers; families affected by TB; and representatives from PATH, One Johnson & Johnson Vietnam, and Johnson & Johnson Global Public Health.
The Nghe An NTP hopes to replicate the results from Breath for Life throughout the rest of the province. Eventually, it is hoped that the Breath for Life model can help improve the diagnosis, treatment, and management of pediatric TB in other provinces in Vietnam.
Implemented by PATH, Breath for Life is supported by Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, one of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson.
The Nghe An Tuberculosis and Lung Disease Hospital, under the management of the Nghe An Provincial Health Department, is the provincial health professional organization responsible for examination, consultation, and treatment on TB and lung diseases for patients living in Nghe An and other nearby provinces. It is also responsible for providing direction on TB control for the 21 districts and two prisons in Nghe An.