World TB Day: On behalf of a future free from Tuberculosis

On March 24th in 1882, Dr. Robert Koch identified the cause of tuberculosis, a disease that at that time was killing 1 out of 7 people in Europe and Americas. This discovery was a watershed towards the diagnosis and cure of TB. In 1982, when this important discovery completed 100 years, the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (IUATLD) launched the first World TB Day. The World Health Organization (WHO) together with the IUATLD and other organizations joined forces in 1996 to start promoting through the Stop TB Partnership every March 24th the World TB Day, a day in which the fight against TB is in the world spotlight.

According to the WHO, “more than two billion people, equal to one third of the world’s total population, are infected with TB bacilli, the microbes that cause TB. One in every 10 of those people will become sick with active TB in his or her lifetime. People living with HIV are at a much greater risk.”

Starting February 2012, the fight to stop TB got a real catalyser in Uganda through the partnership between TTC and AMREF.
A set of 10 TB awareness messages and 16 Quiz questions were sent over a mobile phone in English and in a Ugandan local language (Luganda). Topics addressed in the mobile campaign messages included (but were not limited to) TB disease, TB and HIV myths, TB treatment plans and TB spread, and were sent to at least 1000 people in Wakiso and Luweero districts.Amref Health Africa logo white

The campaign attracted an interactive and remarkable average response rate of over 3000 responses to all the quiz questions. This breaks down to an average of 30% response rate for each quiz question sent, having the English quiz questions a higher response mark. The first phase of the campaign has lasted two months and a follow up campaign to assess TB health education will be carried out after three months.

TTC impact evaluation survey
In commemoration of the World Tuberculosis Day, TTC conducted a half a day survey as a follow-up of the SMS campaign. The survey was performed by a market research agency, Research Africa. For purposes of the survey, a small sample was randomly selected from the group that participated in the campaign.
A more comprehensive survey can be carried out in future.

The aim was to follow up on the impact of stop TB campaign, which goals are to improve TB treatment adherence, reduce stigma and discrimination by awareness creation, and sensitization and increase health care uptake.

The survey targeted people in Wakiso, Kiboga, Luwero, and Kyankwanzi districts, however, the results show that some respondents were from Buukwe, Gulu, Jinja , Kampala, Kamuli, Kibale, Kyegwagwa, Mityana and Mukono. The results indicated a successful campaign. This is because all the respondents were able to respond to the text messages, and indicated that they learned something out of the campaign. However, they mentioned the need to reach out to more people in their communities, so more people can gain from SMS campaigns such as these.

Below are some of responses that were captured:
What did you learn from the SMS messages that were sent to your phone over the past few weeks?

“T.B can spread through air, T.B is curable, people who have ever been affected can still attain it”
“T.B spreads from person to person, treatment and drugs are available”
“Some of the signs and symptoms are weight loss and loss of appetite.”
“Suspected persons need to go to health centers for checkup.”
“If you have those infected, use separate utensils. Cover your mouth when coughing. Proper Ventilation.”

Is there any other information you wanted to know about T.B?

“Procedures for testing T.B.”
“If a person is infected, how do you protect them from infecting other?”
“Once cured, is it possible to be re-infected?”
“Can one get infected with T.B. for the 3rd time?”
“What other diseases are related to T.B?”
“Are there any myths about the disease?”
“Where can the drugs be accessed?”
“What kind of drugs cure TB and how do you live with people who have TB? Is TB curable?”
“How can I help others in this campaign?”

AMREF already carries out solid programs with the purpose to raise community awareness on prevention and diagnosis of TB, and engage people to get voluntarily tested. TTC has vast experience in successfully using mobile technology to improve uptake of health care, encourage behavioral change and increase medicine adherence in Africa.

The cooperation between both organisations joins a rich set of lifesaving information with effective dissemination to those who need it. Through the use of other media like radio campaigns, community members in the four districts were encouraged to voluntarily opt into the TTC mobile platform which was one of the channels to acquire phone numbers from people interested in participating in the campaign. Participants will be rewarded with prizes like airtime, mobile phones and T-shirts through an AMREF TB outreach event in Wakiso later in the year.

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