The resurgence of TB has been worsened by the emergence of multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis as well as by the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. According to a recent study by the World Bank, China's economy is heavily impacted by TB deaths, which threatens to stall the booming Chinese economy. With nearly 1.3 million people diagnosed with tuberculosis in China each year, of which 7% are multi-drug resistant strains of the disease, there's no better time to intercept its progression.
As TB seriously impacts businesses, disrupting workflow, reducing productivity, and increasing both direct costs related to care and treatment and indirect costs, such as the replacement and/or retrainment of workers, businesses need to commit to deploying their full resources. "We are at a critical crossroads in TB control," said David Ricks, President, Eli Lilly Greater China, People's Republic of China. "By implementing a bold strategy and mobilising our companies to better leverage our existing skills and competencies and by providing us with relevant management tools, we are confident that the Chinese business sector will be able to reign in the devastating effects of the disease," he added. Select companies from Eli Lilly Greater China pre- tested the TB toolkit with success. "Feedback from plant managers around the usefulness and timeliness of this toolkit was extremely positive", confirmed Mr. Ricks.
The National Tuberculosis Control Programme (NTP), initiated by the General Office of the State Council, is working to support this mission by improving access to high-quality TB care. By helping companies implement a sustainable TB response mechanism, including tackling drug resistant strains and HIV-TB co-infection, it is hoped the TB toolkit will help Chinese companies grasp the opportunities they have to increase their activities in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of TB and TB/HIV co-infections in the workplace, therefore empowering companies to take partial responsibility for the health of their employees.
"The future impact of tuberculosis in China in terms of economic losses, a weakened workforce and the resulting instability will be severe unless we take effective measures to control and prevent the disease." declared Dr Shaloo Puri Kamble, Advisor on Tuberculosis at the Global Health Initiative of the World Economic Forum. "Tackling TB demands increased commitment both in terms of standardising the management of existing cases and in the development of new TB tools. Business leaders in China must start to recognize the crucial role they can play in TB care and the importance of the workplace setting as a win-win setting for TB control," she added.
"This TB Awareness toolkit recognises the crucial roles and responsibilities that business communities can play in public health matters. Together with guidelines and case studies, the toolkit will be immensely beneficial to employers in dealing with TB in the workplace. We are also supportive to the recommendation to join hands with the government and key partners from other sectors to maximise individual's efforts on public health awareness program. We are eager to use this long awaited tool to help strengthen our efforts to raise awareness and integrate our existing TB and HIV initiatives at the workplace and surrounding communities," said Calvin Tsang, Chief Human Resources Officer of Esquel.
The Forum works in close partnership with the Chinese government on this issue through the China Health Alliance (CHA) - an alliance that brings together government, businesses, NGOs and international organizations in a joint effort to address the growing economic and social threat of HIV/AIDS and TB in China. But more needs and can be done. Despite being preventable, treatable and curable, TB continues to devastate South and South-East Asia. It is time for the business sector in China to deploy the full scale of its resources and power to help accelerate the country's response to this threatening epidemic.
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