Photo credit: B4H
This week in Kokopo the Businesses for Health (B4H) TB project partnered with leading businesses to address PNG’s ongoing Tuberculosis crisis. Even though drugs that eradicate TB have been around since 1944, worldwide 1.5 million people still died of the illness in 2020.
TB has been in PNG a long time. In the 1930s it was the largest cause of death at the Nonga hospital in East New Britain. In 2022, TB remains the most common reason for admission to hospital both in ENB and at the Port Moresby General Hospital in the National Capital. This year PNG will record at least another 4300 deaths from TB. B4H is working with businesses to change this.
B4H works hand in hand with business to generate workplace TB leaders who learn to address TB issues in their workplaces as well as with their families and local communities. “TB is a serious development challenge for Papua New Guinea. At B4H we work to grow leaders in the workplace who can speak up and act. Awareness alone is not enough. Ignorance, stigma and complacency about poor health kills people, says Dr Ann Clarke B4H project manager, “to help address this every workplace needs policies and people trained to deliver activities to enable early case finding and swift return to work.
This is why Kokopo businesses sent people to our 3-day workplace TB course. They will now go on to change the mindset and improve health seeking behaviour. Employees leave our training knowing that coughing is not normal. They learn coughing is a sign of disease, and all people with persistent coughs need kindly and respectfully to be supported to get checked. It is completely unacceptable to let workers, family or community members die of this preventable and treatable disease.”
Over thirty local business leaders attended our TB update evening hosted by the Rabaul Hotel in ENB. PNG Air flew us here, The Gazelle Hotel hosted our team to deliver workplace training, the Remington Group printed our training manuals. These businesses know exactly how much just one ignored, or badly managed case of TB can impact their people and profits. TB is a massive burden on the PNG economy, Dr Clarke continued.
“By teaching people about the long and complex clinical pathways for TB, introducing them to the provincial health teams and services we build confidence in and access to free TB services. We are so pleased to include local experts like Dr Grace Baiwan, Physician at NONGA. Dr Grace made it very clear, we can end TB if people bring her patients quickly before they create more TB patients. The trainees also met the TB and HIV teams at Butuwin Health Centre as part of our course. This is not just sit-down training. This is about building health leadership and learning to speak up, B4H TB HEO Koratsi explained.
TB is not just an East New Britain issue; this is a regional issue. We need everyone in our region to pitch in with all their political, economic, and humanitarian might. The suffering generated by 40,000 TB cases in PNG is a crisis for anyone seeking to live, work or study overseas or enjoy a long and healthy life in PNG.
B4H is grateful for some support for the project managers role from the Global Fund’s COVID-19 response grant to PNG. Without it, Dr Clarke would be unable to be here at all. Her task is to restore business participation in their mission to end TB. The trainees in Kokopo are strong women (and a few men) who are now empowered to speak up. We leave ENB knowing we have 19 more loud and informed voices to drive change and save lives. B4H is a brilliant example of what we achieve in partnership with the Department of Health, the private sector and donors. Dr Clarke said.