Kuala Lumpur (VNA) – Malaysia’s Ministry of Health (MoH) has called on Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states to take a major step up in financial support to bring diagnostics, drugs and drug regimens as well as vaccines to market as a new tool to fight tuberculosis (TB). 

In an article titled "ASEAN region will invest to end TB. Save Lives”, which was published in conjunction with World Tuberculosis Day 2022 (March 24), the MoH said investment for a new TB vaccine that is safe and more effective than BCG that can protect against all forms of TB in adolescents and adults would be the most powerful tool to rapidly reduce TB incidence.

Digital technologies are changing healthcare delivery globally, and there is also an increasing recognition that digital technologies can support medication adherence, it said, urging ASEAN member states (AMS) to explore the use of digital technologies for ongoing communication and reference for the management of TB patients between countries. 

The ministry added that investment for TB control and prevention was not just within the healthcare system but went beyond other ministries and countries.

According to the article, issues like poverty and lack of social protection, malnutrition, overcrowding and poor living or working conditions and migration also need attention and must be widely acknowledged by the various AMS.

It is necessary for AMS to further scale up rapid and early diagnosis, expand people-centred care by moving it nearer to patients and their families and introduce shorter and more effective treatment regimens, the MoH said.

These include the rational use of medicines to avoid further development of antimicrobial resistance, expand preventive therapy and research for new tools to prevent TB more efficiently, it added. 

The ministry said this year’s World TB day’s theme “Invest to End TB. Save Lives” conveyed the urgent need to invest resources to ramp up the fight against TB. It is especially critical in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic that has put End TB progress at risk.

According to the MoH, the number of people newly diagnosed and reported with TB has dropped on a global scale.

Global targets for reductions in the burden of TB disease have been set as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030 and the End TB Strategy 2035, with the TB incidence rate as the key indicator for measurement of progress, said the ministry./.