Scientific Highlights for Friday 23 October

Conference News 23 Oct 2020

An exhilarating range of challenging and innovative science and debate

Day four of the 51st Union World Conference offered an exhilarating range of challenging and innovative science, discussion and learning. Her Royal Highness Princess Dina Mired of Jordan moderated a special session on human rights, the tobacco industry and child health. The findings of the first National tuberculosis (TB) prevalence surveys in Southern Africa were keenly anticipated, while Using Digital Technologies for TB elimination also attracted considerable interest, not in the least because many of these technologies have been quickly embraced in the fight to contain COVID-19. Meanwhile in open to the public, free to access Community Connect space, TB Champions respond to COVID-19: Narratives from India provided stories of immense courage and the incomparable insights of lived experience.

Read more about these highlights below.

Human rights and tobacco: progress and next steps for protecting populations from tobacco industry interference in child health

This session looked at how stakeholders in health and human rights can use a human rights based approach to protect children’s rights and accelerate the implementation of tobacco control measures at national level. Practical examples of how to use human rights mechanisms and human rights treaties were given, as well as coordinated campaigns around national reporting obligations to human rights treaties.

National TB prevalence surveys in Southern Africa: key results, lessons learned and programmatic implications

Data is key in the fight to end TB and participants in this widely anticipated symposium presented the findings of four surveys by the World Health Organization’s Global Task Force on TB Impact Measurement, which were recently conducted in high TB-HIV burden countries in Southern Africa – Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique and South Africa. Key results, major lessons learnt and the programmatic implications, were all explored followed by how these survey results were used to re-estimate TB burden.

Using digital technology for TB elimination

This oral abstract looked at how a range of digital technologies – many of which have already been rapidly embraced as part of the response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic – could be used to improve results in TB case finding, diagnosis and care, as well as, critically, prevention.

The use of geographic information systems technology and self-reported data to characterise congregate settings with high potential risk for TB transmission in an urban African area was covered.

Exciting results from a public-private initiative which uses artificial intelligence-augmented chest X-Ray screening and TrueLab for diagnosis to increase TB case detection in Nagpur slums was explored in this session.

Simply investing in transitioning from paper-based to digital systems as part of the National Tuberculosis Elimination Programme, India, showed immense potential, with near real-time communication of process status to all stakeholders, resulting in increased transparency, accountability and process efficiency.

Meanwhile a Tibet-based study showed how e-applications had rapidly become better accepted by healthcare workers and patients as a result of the pandemic.

TB Champions respond to COVID-19: Narratives from India

In this powerful Community Connect session, TB Champions shared their experiences of supporting the TB response in India as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded. They also shared the challenges they faced in acting as an interface between people with TB and health system during this extremely stressful period.

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