Objective: To implement a training program for physicians and patients and assess its effectiveness in terms of patient compliance with the pulmonary tuberculosis treatment regimen in the border region of Chiapas, Mexico.
Methods: A controlled intervention study was performed with patients over 15 years of age who had pulmonary tuberculosis diagnosed by direct microscopy (bacilloscopy) between 1 February 2001 and 31 January 2002 in health units randomly selected in the border region of Chiapas, Mexico. The sample was made up of patients who sought consultation at 23 and 25 health units over that period (intervention and control group, respectively). The intervention group took part in a training program for health personnel in which the following were discussed: the social, cultural, and economic aspects of tuberculosis; the theoretical and practical underpinnings of the diagnosis and treatment of the illness, and the establishment of self-help groups. Selfhelp groups were also created for all patients at the 23 units where the intervention group sought consultation. All patients were given a short-term treatment regimen with isoniazid, rifampin, pyrazinamide, and ethambutol for a total of 25 weeks, until completing a total of 105 doses. Patient follow-up was extended through December 2003. The intervention and control groups were compared by means of the chi square test, and Student's t test was used to compare means. The relative risk of non-compliance (RR) was calculated along with 95% confidence intervals (95% CI).
Results: Eighty-seven patients participated in the study; 44 were exposed to the intervention, and 43 made up the control group. Compliance with treatment was considerably greater in the intervention group than in the control group (97.7% vs. 81.4%, respectively; RR = 1.20; 95% CI: 1.03 to 1.39; P = 0.0015). It was noted that physicians in the border region of Chiapas gear their activities toward curative medicine, rather than preventive medicine or understanding the social determinants of disease.
Conclusions: As a result of the educational activities that were part of the intervention, there was an increase in the proportion of patients who complied with treatment. Health services can improve tuberculosis control in Chiapas with the resources that are available to them at present. Physicians should be taught to view health problems in Chiapas as part of an integral set of conditions, and efforts should be made to improve the doctor-patient relationship. Steps should also be taken to incorporate educational activities and community participation in health services in order to address public health problems in a comprehensive way.