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Two UN agencies launch effort to combat tuberculosis in the workplace

Two UN agencies launch effort to combat tuberculosis in the workplace

With tuberculosis killing 5,000 people every day, the United Nations health and labour agencies joined forces today to launch a new effort to protect the health of millions of workers, releasing a set of guidelines for TB control in the workplace.

The guidelines, launched by World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Durban, South Africa, on the occasion of the World Economic Forum Africa Summit, describe cost-effective steps to protect workforce productivity in the face of a disease that infects 8 million people and kills an estimated 2 million each year.

The toll is even more alarming because three-quarters of TB victims are in the most economically productive age group of 15 to 54 years. But effective treatment under internationally recommended measures – including a government commitment, detection by sputum checks and proper drug supply – can prevent avoidable deaths and allow sick workers to return to productive work sooner.

“For private and parastatal business, and for the public sector, TB control represents a win-win situation,” WHO Director-General Gro Harlem Brundtland and ILO Director-General Juan Somavia write in a foreword, in which they urge businesses and all key partners to use the guidelines in contributing to the global movement to stop TB.

“Employers benefit from investment in a healthier workforce and the demonstration of corporate social responsibility. The community in general stands to benefit from improved TB control resulting from the contribution of workplace TB control to overall TB programme activities in a particular country," they add.

The 74-page booklet gives authoritative information on how TB spreads, and what can do done to control it. It also includes current information on the treatment of people who are co-infected with TB and HIV, and for people who have multi-drug- resistant TB, which is far more difficult and expensive to treat than normal TB.