The Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) Wednesday announced comprehensive measures to lower the incidence of tuberculosis to half by 2022.
|The government will launch another massive “Eradicate Tuberculosis” campaign to wipe the dishonor as the most TB-infected member of OECD.|
In 2013, the government announced a similar plan aimed to cut tuberculosis incidence to about half by 2020. As a result of the initial program, the ministry said the number of newly diagnosed TB patients fell by an average of 5.8 percent annually, and the number of new tuberculosis patients fell to the 20,000 range in 2017 for the first time.
Despite the overall decrease in tuberculosis incidence, a rapidly aging society makes the country more vulnerable to TB while the increasing number of foreign patients with TB called for stronger response measures, the ministry said.
Experts have long called for innovative measures to shed the negative image of having the highest tuberculosis rates among OECD countries, with 77 people out of 100,000 infected and death rates standing at about five people out of 100,000.
The government said that the new measures aim to reduce the incidence rate to 40 out of 100,000 people and cut it down further for its complete eradication by 2035.
In the next five years, the government will focus on four areas - infection prevention through early detection, patient-centered care and support, research and development (R&D) and diagnosis, and domestic and international cooperation systems.
The ministry said it would create programs, so that elderly in areas where TB incidence is high will get screenings to prevent infection through early detection. It will also develop measures with regional governments to make sure elderly who are eligible for medical reimbursement would receive TB screening. Steps will also make sure those living in residential areas with foreigners would get TB and latent TB infectious disease screenings.
The programs will also target occupational groups such as after-school teachers and caregivers who are in frequent contact with infants, adolescents, and the elderly whom are vulnerable to tuberculosis infection.
The government will strengthen the examination and monitoring of those who have tuberculosis, and provide moving tuberculosis screening programs for socially and economically vulnerable people such as the homeless.
It will also crack down on latent TB by expanding the number of medical institutions that treat the condition from the existing 370 institutions to 460 while also strengthening monitoring and epidemiological investigations of side effects.
The number of medical personnel at public health centers and private medical institutions will also be expanded to improve patient care quality.
The ministry will also develop and support the development of TB diagnosis systems and treatment by encouraging the continual development of TB drugs. In particular, the government will aim to create and localize the BCG vaccine by 2020 to eliminate instability of supply and to establish vaccine sovereignty.
The plan also includes measures to form a national and international cooperation system for TB control and prevention. The government will organize and run related ministries' councils to strengthen implementation capacity through consultation and coordination regarding TB policy and to mobilize the ability to combat TB.
Internationally, the ministry said it intends to establish a close cooperation system with international organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) by participating in expert consultation groups such as patient management, screening of infected TB treatment management, R&D and innovation, and holding international conferences.
“We will do our best to realize the ‘TB-free society and healthy nation’ by minimizing the national and social damage caused by tuberculosis through detailed and concrete enforcement of this comprehensive plan for TB control,” KCDC Director Jung Eun-kyeong said.
To overcome tuberculosis and live in a healthy and safe world, the nation must work to fight against tuberculosis with an extraordinary determination in the fields of government, medical, academia, local governments and health centers, she added.
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