Can TB Programmes Help Strengthen Health Systems?

As funding for diseases of poverty through mechanisms such as the Global Fund has increased over the years, health advocates have argued for the need to increase resources for health systems as well. Heated debates continue between those who advocate for disease-specific interventions  focused on tackling major killers like TB, malaria and HIV (also known as a ‘vertical’ approach to health) and those who advocate for broader health system strengthening (‘horizontal’ approach).

Whilst RESULTS is known for its advocacy and campaigning on TB, it also works on cross-cutting health challenges such as removing user fees for health and addressing the health worker shortage. Strong, fully-funded health systems are crucial for the long-term eradication of TB and other diseases. Equally, eradicating major diseases will dramatically reduce the burden on over-stretched health systems and health workers in developing countries.

A new paper, How health systems in sub-Saharan Africa can benefit from tuberculosis and other infectious disease programmes co-authored by Paul Jensen from RESULTS USA and published in the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, adds to the debate by showing that now-prosperous countries were able to build strong health services on the back of successful TB programmes. Lessons learned from disease-specific programmes, they argue, should therefore be applied to efforts to improve health care delivery and primary health care in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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