CDC and UNTHSC team up to discuss tuberculosis elimination

By Sally Crocker

Thad Miller Systems Thinking Seminar Web

 

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Public health experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNT Health Science Center and Tarleton State University recently joined forces to brainstorm new approaches to control an age-old health risk: tuberculosis.

“A century ago, my grandmother lost her sister, mother and grandfather to tuberculosis,” said Thaddeus Miller, DRPH, Associate Professor in UNTHSC’s School of Public Health. “Through rigorous domestic public health programs, including a focus on latent TB cases, the United States has been largely protected in recent decades. But this protection, as well as new and emerging threats, shouldn’t be taken for granted until we are able to see TB only in our past and not our future.”

More than 30 participants from academia and research, healthcare, and state and federal health agency oversight joined forces to discuss how to better leverage the U.S. commercial health care sector against the persistent threat of TB.

“The public health system does not have the capacity to address this alone,” said Thomas R. Navin, MD, Chief of the CDC’s TB Surveillance, Epidemiology and Outbreak Investigations Branch. “TB-related care, including testing and treatment for LTBI, has historically been provided by local public health agencies. But to more effectively address the slowing progress in TB elimination across the country, a new and expanded approach is needed to look beyond what public health, working on its own, can provide.”

The topic of latent TB infection (LTBI) was of special interest at the event.  People can carry LTBI and not even know it, with the infection lying dormant for years or even decades.

“LTBI is treatable and can usually stop the development of active tuberculosis,” said Dr. Miller, Principal Investigator of the North Texas Tuberculosis Epidemiologic Studies Consortium (TBESC), one of the CDC’s 10 such selected TB research sites in the U.S. “Public health officials and the CDC agree that to solve this problem, private sector health providers and influencers must be engaged, to work side by side with the public health system in testing and treatment.”

The day was an example of the power of interprofessional collaboration. Led by MHA student Kaitlyn McKinley, teams from UNTHSCs School of Public Health, Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine and UNT System College of Pharmacy provided hospitality and recorded the discussions. Faculty from Tarleton State University’s College of Health Science and Human Services helped moderate the discussions.

“By enlisting help from other stakeholders, we stand a better chance of stopping TB,” Dr. Miller said. “Without taking new action to finish the job we’ve begun, we run the risk of a future as ravaged by TB as was our past. I’m proud to be part an organization with the partnerships and expertise to see this fight to the end.”

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