Tuberculosis (TB)

Community and patient involvement in TB care and prevention

Community involvement

Village children in Togo
WHO/L. Velebit

In order to remove the threat of TB and other health problems, communities need to be empowered through awareness of primary health issues and healthy behaviours. They need the opportunity to utilize their skills, affirm their rights and take up the responsibility to improve their own health and quality of life.

The human and social dimension of the TB epidemic cannot be adequately addressed without involving those most affected by the disease, by poverty and the resulting consequences of their sickness on their jobs and family lives. People directly affected by TB and their communities have to be involved in the planning, implementation and evaluation of health interventions. To promote a partnership between the health services and local communities can help provide practical solutions to the problems many people face when they fall ill and need diagnosis and proper care, as well as lead to more effective interventions by health professionals.

Advocacy, communication and social mobilization (ACSM) play a decisive role in facilitating the involvement and the empowerment of communities.

  • Advocacy refers to influencing the behaviour of public leaders and decision-makers, to ensure political and financial commitment is there to put TB control mechanisms into place.

  • Communication targets individuals and small groups and generally means to promote information sharing and dialogue enabling people to improve their health-related behaviour.

  • Social Mobilization refers to the promotion of active community involvement in health initiatives.

If people are fully aware of the following:

  • the main symptoms of TB
  • that TB is a serious transmissible but curable disease
  • that diagnostic and treatment services are freely available to all

they can effectively refer people who are sick at an early stage of the illness, and may often be in a position to provide support to the patient and his/her family.

Community involvement means a shared responsibility for individual and public health by the people and the health services. Health services can strengthen the community's capacity to act, and foster long-term sustainability of such participation, through educating people on the problems and discussing their possible solutions, and by encouraging community self-reliance and ownership of health initiatives.

The recommendations, evidence and experiences gathered have been documented as Community involvement in tuberculosis care and prevention: towards partnerships for health [pdf 800kb].