Interview with Dr Tamara Voshenkova, Kazakhstan’s Vice-Minister of Public Health
Dr Tamara Voshenkova, Kazakhstan’s Vice-Minister of Public Health, is a medical doctor who rose to her current position in Kazakhstan in late 2008. She talked about the country’s efforts to battle MDR-TB from her office in Astana.
John Donnelly Q: Have any specific cases of TB made a big impact on you?
Dr Tamara Voshenkova A: Many. There was one case involving a family that really touched me. The mother, who ran a small store, came down with MDRTB a year and a half ago. Now she’s in the hospital; unfortunately, it looks unlikely that she will be able to reverse the illness. She has a 3-year-old daughter who is also diagnosed with TB. You see this good family that was living a good life, and then all their plans are broken because of TB. It’s heartbreaking.
Q: What’s the most important part of Kazakhstan’s fight against drug-resistant TB?
A: It’s that we have shown strong political will to face the problem. The Government recognized the problem and it has taken steps to address it. One of the main efforts now is to get the most reliable information possible on MDR-TB.
Q: What worries you the most?
A: We recognize the challenges in TB control. Based on our cure rates (71%), we are not reaching WHO targets (85%). We also recognize that MDR-TB case numbers are high, and that we expect more XDR-TB cases. It will be difficult, but we are trying, along with help from international donors and technical experts, to solve this problem. We are taking a strong intersectoral approach, involving many ministries, including education, culture, internal affairs and justice. We realized that just the medical response to the problem couldn’t solve it. Only an intersectoral approach will work.