World Health Organization: China world leader in tuberculosis control

Recognition event for World Tuberculosis Day held at Great Hall of the People

News release

Over the last 20 years China has made the biggest gains in the world in tuberculosis control, declared the World Health Organization (WHO) at an event to celebrate World Tuberculosis (TB) Day at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. The recognition event for World TB Day was attended by Madame Peng Liyuan, who serves as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for TB and HIV/AIDS, and Minister Li Bin, National Health and Family Planning Commission.

China has achieved global targets of halting TB incidence and has halved the prevalence of TB and mortality from the disease. These milestones were achieved five years in advance of the 2015 targets.

"Over the last 20 years, China has been the single country that has shown the biggest gains in TB control in the world," said Dr Bernhard Schwärtlander, WHO Representative in China. "In doing so, China has contributed to the global targets, which is an incredibly important accomplishment."

"China’s collective and renewed commitment to control TB come at the right juncture of the TB epidemic in the country," added Dr Schwärtlander.

This week’s publication of The Lancet1 attributes the gains to a national commitment by China to a WHO-recommended public health programme that substantially improved the quality of TB control.

Despite this dramatic success, there are still an estimated one million new cases of TB in China every year. Of these, 100,000 patients are completely missed by the health system, and only a minority of the 60,000 multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) patients are accessing proper diagnosis and treatment.

"These numbers are simply far too big. They show that TB is far from being resolved as a public health issue. Much more can be done and must be done," said Dr Schwärtlander.

"Ongoing health reform must be used as an opportunity to strengthen clinical and public health services for TB and MDR TB patients. This can be achieved by using the same public health principles that contributed to the successes of China’s TB program over the last 20 years," said Dr Schwärtlander.

"The presence of clear policy guidance and specific regulations are crucial to improve the delivery of TB and MDR-TB services to the population," emphasised Dr Schwärtlander.

"If we want to enter a new phase where TB and MDR-TB are no longer a public health concern, we must prioritize the implementation of new tools and technology to identify new cases more rapidly, and to simplify treatment regimens for TB and MDR TB. Equally, we need China to contribute to global innovation," said Dr Schwärtlander.

"TB remains a disease of poverty," said Schwärtlander. "The WHO and the National Health and Family Planning Commission stand together with a goal to ensure affordable health care to all Chinese people."

"There is no reason, that over the next 20 years, China cannot lead the efforts to call the end of TB," concluded Dr Schwärtlander.

For more information, please contact:

Helen Yu
Communications Officer, WHO China
Office Tel: +86 10 6532 7191

1"Tuberculosis prevalence in China, 1990—2010; a longitudinal analysis of national survey data", The Lancet, Early Online Publication, 18 March 2014, doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(13)62639-2