Republic of Serbia: World TB Day brings to light a successful program

Published: 29 April 2014 21:52 CET

By Nebojsa Medojevic, Operation Officer/ Red Cross of Serbia

To strengthen and expand the access to diagnosis and treatment of TB/MDR-TB cases targeting vulnerable people and risk groups in their communities, is no longer a new experience to the Red Cross of Serbia.

Since 2005, the organization committed itself to assist Ministry of Health in TB control measures through formal partnerships established under the TB project funded by the Global fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

The partnership motivated 78 Red Cross branches to take an active role in preventive health activities in their respective communities through active tracing of TB cases and contacts among beneficiaries of the Red Cross Soup kitchen program and Roma population living in slums. Seven NGOs working with injecting drug users and female sex workers became part of the project implementation under the Red Cross of Serbia operational project management.

Successful implementation

As a result  the TB notification rate decreased from 32 per 100,000 population in 2005 to 21 per 100,000 population in 2010. According to latest data 1,220 patients suffering from tuberculosis have been reported in 2012, a figure translated in 17 reported cases of tuberculosis per 100,000 inhabitants, which is below the cut-off point  of 20 cases per 100,000 for a low burden country in the European region.

The country is moving towards becoming a low TB burden country in the European region, but it is essential to maintain the established country system of TB control. The Red Cross of Serbia has launched a country-wide campaign on the occasion of World Day to Combat TB, on March 24, 2014.

More than 50 RC branches organized local information campaigns involving lectures for schoolchildren, elderly citizens, and Roma population by specialized doctors, TB educational leaflets distribution to the people in the streets, schools, health institutions. Red Cross of Serbia TB unit designed the questionnaire to assess people’s knowledge about TB, such as diseases transmission pathway, symptoms detection, readiness to receive targeted health messages from the Red Cross as part of future health initiatives.

The 2,478 questionnaires filled in during street interviews by local RC branches demonstrate the awareness that people have concerning TB. The encouraging fact is that most people recognized TB is a curable illness, but around 50% never heard about other than the lung form of TB. Most of those questioned identified  cough that lasts longer than three weeks and night sweats as TB symptoms .

Regarding infection, the main transmission path was known to be predominantly through air. Less encouraging was the results from questions regarding regular health checks and health awareness, which showed that around 53% of people have been very rarely visiting doctors, and 34% of people thought that they are not well informed on health risks. 80% of the people interviewed are willing to visit a public debate dedicated to public health and organized by Red Cross, while 55% showed readiness to receive email information about health from the Red Cross.

The results from interviews will be used to shape up the further educational material on TB, but also to adjust the communication channels of the National Society in addressing the public on different educational health campaign.