Poverty drives tuberculosis (TB) rates but the approach to TB control has been disproportionately biomedical. In 2015, the World Health Organization's End TB Strategy explicitly identified the need to address the social determinants of TB through socio-economic interventions. However, evidence concerning poverty reduction and cost mitigation strategies is limited. The research described in this article, based on the 2016 Royal College of Physicians Linacre Lecture, aimed to address this knowledge gap. The research was divided into two phases: the first phase was an analysis of a cohort study identifying TB-related costs of TB-affected households and creating a clinically relevant threshold above which those costs became catastrophic; the second was the design, implementation and evaluation of a household randomised controlled evaluation of socio-economic support to improve access to preventive therapy, increase TB cure, and mitigate the effects of catastrophic costs. The first phase showed TB remains a disease of people living in poverty - 'free' TB care was unaffordable for impoverished TB-affected households and incurring catastrophic costs was associated with as many adverse TB treatment outcomes (including death, failure of treatment, lost to follow-up and TB recurrence) as multidrug resistant (MDR) TB. The second phase showed that, in TB-affected households receiving socio-economic support, household contacts were more likely to start and adhere to TB preventive therapy, TB patients were more likely to be cured and households were less likely to incur catastrophic costs. In impoverished Peruvian shantytowns, poverty remains inextricably linked with TB and incurring catastrophic costs predicted adverse TB treatment outcome. A novel socio-economic support intervention increased TB preventive therapy uptake, improved TB treatment success and reduced catastrophic costs. The impact of the intervention on TB control is currently being evaluated by the Community Randomized Evaluation of a Socio-economic Intervention to Prevent TB (CRESIPT) study.
Keywords: End TB Strategy; TB; catastrophic costs; conditional cash transfers; poverty; social determinants; social protection; socio-economic support.
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