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U.N., U.S., NGO Health Agencies Launch Action Plan Against TB In Children

“The deaths of more than 74,000 children from tuberculosis (TB) could be prevented each year through measures outlined in the first action plan developed specifically on TB and children, which was launched [Tuesday] by the United Nations health agency in Washington, D.C.,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “The ‘Roadmap for Childhood TB: Towards Zero Deaths‘ estimates that $120 million per year could have a major impact on saving tens of thousands of children’s lives from TB, including among children infected with both TB and HIV,” the news service writes, noting, “The roadmap recommends various actions at national and global levels, including collecting and reporting better data, developing training and reference materials on childhood TB for health workers, fostering local expertise and leadership among child health workers at all levels of health systems, and developing integrated family and community-centered strategies to provide comprehensive and effective services at the community level” (10/1).

According to a joint press release from the authors of the roadmap, which include the WHO, UNICEF, CDC, and several non-governmental organizations (NGOs), $40 million of the necessary “$120 million a year in new funding for addressing TB in children from governments and donors [would go toward] HIV antiretroviral therapy and preventive therapy (to prevent active TB disease) for children co-infected with TB and HIV.” The funds would “also go towards improving detection, developing better medicines for children and integrating TB treatment into existing maternal and child health programs,” the press release states (10/1). “[B]ut it’s unclear if donors will invest; there is already a projected $21 billion shortfall for global efforts to fight TB until 2015,” the Associated Press/Huffington Post reports (10/1). “The report says there is an urgent need to focus on children,” BBC News notes, adding, “Each day almost 200 children under the age of 15 die from tuberculosis, while more than half a million fall ill every year, it says” (10/1). “Experts say tuberculosis in children — defined as people under the age of 15 — has often been overlooked because there isn’t a reliable diagnostic test and its symptoms are similar to many other childhood illnesses,” and because children are less likely to spread the disease, “it hasn’t been considered a major public health problem,” according to the AP (10/1).