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27 October 2011, Dhaka. At the prestigious International Union against TB and Lung Disease’s annual conference in Lille, France, BRAC formally launched its new book “Making Tuberculosis History: Community-based Solutions for Millions”. As part of a vibrant public-private partnership led by the National Tuberculosis Program, BRAC treats close to 100,000 patients annually in Bangladesh. BRAC’s efforts to scale-up internationally offer exciting evidence that their community-based program is widely adaptable, by other stakeholders and even for other health conditions. As Victoria Treland of RESULTS USA remarked at the event, “this book is so important is that it really shows what is possible”. In an era of increasing technology and tools marred political and financial commitments mar the social development sector worldwide, and so telling of the vast achievements Bangladesh has made in TB has never been timelier. Indeed, the conference’s theme, “Partnerships for scaling up and care” emphasized a growing global appetite for examples of effective programs and tools to help them impact their communities.
Faruque Ahmed, Director of BRAC Health Programme, initiated the ceremony by walking the audience through the book’s contents, describing BRAC’s evolution from a Liberation War rehabilitation organization in 1972 into a comprehensive, anti-poverty organization focused on empowering the poor. Its program combating tuberculosis began over twenty-five years ago and was part of a movement that revolutionized how TB control was conceived globally. “Can we apply our knowledge from the TB program to better prevent post-partum hemorrhage and death during childbirth?” Mr. Ahmed speculated, “Where else can these lessons be applied?”
Several global experts offered prepared reflections on Making Tuberculosis History. Diana Weil, Coordinator of Policy, Strategy and Innovations in the Stop TB Department, World Health Organization described her excitement when observing BRAC’s program first-hand. “So often, peer-reviewed papers only describe what has been done. Here you learn what’s going on between the lines and the complexities of what it takes to do this kind of work”. Bertie Squire, President of the Union and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine said he was most struck by how accessible the community health volunteer model made not just tuberculosis treatment, but the equally important steps of screening and diagnosis. “BRAC was determined to take the services to the community […], an enormous step to make sure that accessing health care didn’t further impoverish patients, as is so often the case.”
Representing two of BRAC’s longest-running partners, Asique Hussain of the National Tuberculosis Programme of Bangladesh, and Isao Osada, of the Japan Anti-Tuberculosis Association, served as panelists. Dr. Hussain shared the government’s ongoing efforts to establish 13,500 community clinics, which will further improve access to TB treatment nationwide. He, along with other speakers, emphasized the role of this book as an advocacy tool to sustain political commitment and a resource for learning. “I’m very glad that they’ve published the book to help share the knowledge and lessons around the world.” Osada noted examples of BRAC’s innovation in community-based programming and the depth of the institutions’ three-decade relationship. “We are very proud to have been a collaborative partner for this great achievement”, he concluded.
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