Over 300 representatives from countries, partners and civil society came together virtually at the Global Meeting of the Working Group Meeting on Public-Private Mix (PPM) on TB prevention and care on 23 and 25 November. The Meeting was convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Stop TB Partnership with support from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Global Fund. The meeting was opened by Dr Tereza Kasaeva, Director of WHO’s Global TB Programme and Dr Madhukar Pai, Chair of the Stop TB PPM Working Group and Associate Director of the McGill International TB Centre. Nigerian TB survivor and advocate Funke Dosumu shared her personal struggle against TB and made a passionate plea for stronger public-private collaboration to ensure access to quality care for those ill with TB without added financial burden. The meeting placed a spotlight on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the TB response, which has been especially severe on private sector care delivery. A special talk was delivered by award-winning journalist Barkha Dutt. She issued a strong wake-up call on the tragic impact of COVID-19 on the poor and vulnerable, especially those struggling with TB and other infectious diseases in accessing affordable care.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has widened gaps in access to TB prevention and care services in both the public and private sector, as evidenced from the experiences and rich discussions shared at the PPM Working Group Meeting,” said Dr Tereza Kasaeva, Director of WHO’s Global TB Programme. “We need to urgently unite forces and strengthen multisectoral action, including through the engagement of all care providers, to get back-on-track towards universal health coverage, to ensure those ill with TB and other infectious diseases are not left behind”.
The meeting resulted in a set of comprehensive priority actions to bolster PPM efforts in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. An updated landscape analysis on private sector engagement with the latest data and PPM models was also pre-launched at the meeting to facilitate improved engagement of private providers to end TB. Global progress, challenges and opportunities to expand PPM to reach End TB targets– notably those committed to in the UN political declaration on TB, were extensively discussed at the meeting.
“Covid-19 and TB pose a deadly, dual threat – a syndemic”, said Dr Madhukar Pai, Chair of the Stop TB PPM Working Group.” Tremendous catch-up work, advocacy, and funding is needed, to get back on track. We need all hands on the deck, including the private health sector, to battle an existing as well as a new killer disease. I am glad the PPM Working Group annual meeting included critical content on how we might accomplish this goal.”
The meeting was held in an interactive format. The first day featured interventions from a TB survivor, WHO and key partners including USAID, The Global Fund, Stop TB Partnership and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. A special country roundtable focused on progress and challenges being faced by countries in scaling up PPM, including around outsourcing of PPM services for greater efficiency. A comprehensive overview of progress made over one year since the launch of the TB PPM Learning Network was presented including a rapid growth in membership & knowledge sharing. This was followed by a spotlight on PPM and drug resistant TB, through a visual patient story and intervention from Viet Nam to mark World Antimicrobial Awareness Week. The 2020 update of the PPM Landscape Analysis on private sector engagement to end TB was pre-launched at the meeting.
The second day focused on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on PPM scale-up efforts. Private practitioners and national TB programme managers shared candid feedback on the grim situation in maintaining private TB care provision during the COVID-19 crisis but also shared how digital innovations are proving a game changer to ensure access to care. The meeting closed with group discussions on top priority actions to get PPM back-on-track to reach End TB targets, given the COVID-19 context. Harnessing digital innovations including telemedicine, improved monitoring and strengthening multisectoral accountability were among the key actions identified.
At the close of the meeting, representatives from national TB programmes, partners and civil society commended the work of the PPM Working Group and WHO and pledged to work with WHO and partners in restoring and strengthening PPM efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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