Background: With effective treatment strategies, the focus of tuberculosis (TB) management has shifted from the prevention of mortality to the avoidance of morbidity. As such, there should be an increased focus on quality of life (QoL) experienced by individuals being treated for TB. The objective of our study was to identify areas of QoL that are affected by active TB using focus groups and individual interviews.
Methods: English, Cantonese, and Punjabi-speaking subjects with active TB who were receiving treatment were eligible for recruitment into the study. Gender-based focus group sessions were conducted for the inner city participants but individual interviews were conducted for those who came to the main TB clinic or were hospitalized. Facilitators used open-ended questions and participants were asked to discuss their experiences of being diagnosed with tuberculosis, what impact it had on their lives, issues around adherence to anti-TB medications and information pertaining to their experience with side effects to these medications. All data were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed using constant comparative analysis.
Results: 39 patients with active TB participated. The mean age was 46.2 years (SD 18.4) and 62% were male. Most were Canadian-born being either Caucasian or Aboriginal. Four themes emerged from the focus groups and interviews. The first describes issues related to the diagnosis of tuberculosis and sub-themes were identified as 'symptoms', 'health care provision', and 'emotional impact'. The second theme discusses TB medication factors and the sub-themes identified were 'adverse effects', 'ease of administration', and 'adherence'. The third theme describes social support and functioning issues for the individuals with TB. The fourth theme describes health behavior issues for the individuals with TB and the identified sub-themes were "behavior modification" and "TB knowledge."
Conclusion: Despite the ability to cure TB, there remains a significant impact on QOL. Since much attention is spent on preventative or curative mechanisms, the impact of this condition on QoL is often not considered. Attention to the issues experienced by patients being treated for TB may optimize adherence and treatment success.