Background: Efforts to intensify global tuberculosis (TB) control are limited by difficulties in coordinating with private doctors. More than half of Indian TB patients may initially consult a private provider, but many are neither diagnosed accurately nor treated effectively. We established and evaluated a public-private partnership based on surveillance of TB detected in private laboratories and use of standardised directly observed treatment regimens.
Methods: In one district, the governmental TB control programme offered training in microscopy to all large private sector laboratories, and educated private physicians on the importance of microscopy for TB diagnosis. We reviewed records from participating private laboratories and all publicly diagnosed patients.
Results: Of 2328 pulmonary TB patients registered from July 2001 to December 2002, 404 (17%) were detected in the private sector. The annual new AFB-positive case notification rate increased by 21%, from 27.8/100,000 in 2000 to 33.5/100,000 in 2002. Surveillance at private laboratories found an additional 260 nonregistered AFB-positive patients.
Conclusions: This public-private partnership substantially increased TB case detection and established a sustainable framework for private sector involvement in TB control. In the setting of a strong public sector programme, the combination of active surveillance of private laboratories along with physician sensitisation is a promising approach to improve TB case detection.