Tuberculosis, major health problem in the Philipines

In the Philippines, TB is a major health problem. It is the sixth leading cause of death and illness. In 2011, WHO estimates there are 260 000 incident cases in the country, and 28 000 die in a year. TB prevalence is high among the high risk groups such as the elderly, urban poor, smokers and those with compromised immune systems such as people living with HIV, malnutrition and diabetes. It is estimated that 10 600 patients have multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) in 2011. This situation leads to substantial socio-economic losses to the country.

Under the National TB Control Program (NTP), the country aims to detect 85% of TB patients and successfully treat at least 90% of them. The 2010 – 2016 Philippine Plan of Action to Control TB provides the road map to achieve the goal of halving the TB mortality and prevalence by 2015. Persons with signs and symptoms of TB can access free diagnostic test using sputum microscopy and anti-TB drugs from different DOTS facilities such as the rural health units, health centres, private clinics, some hospitals, prison clinics, and other facilities. A treatment partner ensures patient compliance.

However, an estimated 65 000 TB cases remain undetected and untreated . These are called the “missing TB cases.

For decades, WHO has been providing technical support to DOH to control TB in the country. Currently, technical assistance is provided in the following areas:

  • intensifying TB case finding through the CATCH TB Cases Project in Metro Manila and DetecTB in Palawan;
  • strengthening TB laboratories, including use of new TB diagnostic tools;
  • scaling up PMDT (Programmatic Management of Drug-resistant TB)
  • implementing infection control;
  • finding TB cases actively among close contacts, clinical risk groups and risk populations;
  • improving TB surveillance as well as program monitoring and evaluation;
  • strengthening TB/HIV collaborative work;and
  • building up operational research capacity.