The main thrust of the World Health Organization's global tuberculosis (TB) control strategy is to ensure effective and equitable delivery of quality assured diagnosis and treatment of TB. Options for including preventive efforts have not yet been fully considered. This paper presents a narrative review of the historical and recent progress in TB control and the role of TB risk factors and social determinants. The review was conducted with a view to assess the prospects of effectively controlling TB under the current strategy, and the potential to increase epidemiological impact through additional preventive interventions. The review suggests that, while the current strategy is effective in curing patients and saving lives, the epidemiological impact has so far been less than predicted. In order to reach long-term epidemiological targets for global TB control, additional interventions to reduce peoples' vulnerability for TB may therefore be required. Risk factors that seem to be of importance at the population level include poor living and working conditions associated with high risk of TB transmission, and factors that impair the host's defence against TB infection and disease, such as HIV infection, malnutrition, smoking, diabetes, alcohol abuse, and indoor air pollution. Preventive interventions may target these factors directly or via their underlying social determinants. The identification of risk groups also helps to target strategies for early detection of people in need of TB treatment. More research is needed on the suitability, feasibility and cost-effectiveness of these intervention options.