Engaging community members has been a challenge in the control of TB. Statistics on the ground show that more than a third of TB patients fail to seek care at health facilities due to varied reasons. This then calls for exploring other avenues for reaching out to the masses apart from expecting them to show up at the formal health care institutions.
Through the Southern Africa Tuberculosis and Health Systems Support Project (SATBHSSP) being supported financially by World Bank, community leaders’ involvement and engagement has been strengthened. Chiefs command respect within the areas of their jurisdiction and therefore key in transmitting TB information to the masses.
“Parents and their children should go for TB screening when they have TB symptoms.” These are the words of Traditional Authority Chigaru of Blantyre Malawi to his subjects. This is the message that the Chief has adopted as one way of reaching out to his subjects in raising awareness on TB screening and the benefits derived from getting TB treated at an early stage.
The chief made this observation during the community TB open days supported by the SATBHSSP which are done quarterly as one way of engaging communities in the fight against TB. In Malawi, chieftaincy represents an institutionalized form of traditional rule with significant influence, particularly in rural areas.
The Chief has made himself an ambassador of TB after being engaged by the Southern Africa TB and Health Systems Support Project. Blantyre is one of the districts among the 9 that are implementing the Project. The Project has made it a point to include mass awareness on TB screening and general information related to TB.
With this community leaders engagement, it TB messages are slowly finding their way to the rural masses to equip them as players in the fight against TB.