Friday, March 17, 2006

HealthRight International, USAID, U.S. Embassy Join to Launch TB Awareness Campaign in Romania

A poster from the TB Awareness
Campaign that appeared
throughout Romania.

Bucharest, Romania — On March 23, 2006 HealthRight International (“HealthRight”) will join together with the US Agency for International Development (“USAID”) and Deputy Chief of the US Mission to Romania, Mark Taplin, to launch a major TB public education and awareness campaign in Romania.

Increased poverty and social dislocation associated with the sudden end of Communism in Romania have led to rapidly increasing rates of TB throughout the country.  Today, Romania has the highest number of new TB cases in the region and the highest number of pediatric cases in all of Europe. 
“The number of new TB cases in Romania has been staggering.  Between 2000 and 2004 there were 145,601 identified cases of TB, with Roma communities suffering some of the highest rates ever recorded”, said Mila Rosenthal, Executive Director of HealthRight International.  “It is critical that the message go out that TB is preventable and treatable.  The partnerships that have come together on this occasion are helping to spread that life-saving message.”
This new campaign addresses the lack of information and awareness among the general Romanian population and those groups most affected by the disease.  HealthRight, in partnership with the National TB Control Program, has developed a series of promotional materials including television and radio spots and other public education tools.  Additionally, the campaign features tools designed for use by doctors in a clinical setting, which will enable them to better communicate key messages to their patients.  These materials will be distributed at health care facilities to target a more focused patient demographic, predominantly those living at or below the national poverty level.  All of the tools will serve to dispel common myths about TB, and communicate critical messages, including: TB is curable; treatment is free and available; and treatment breaks infection; but that treatment must be completed.  The slogan for this campaign is Tuberculoza se vindeca! (Tuberculosis can be cured!)
Begun in 2003, the USAID-funded HealthRight project in Romania complements government programming by targeting some of the most marginalized and vulnerable groups.  These include Roma communities (formerly known as Gypsies), who are often deemed undeserving of treatment; the most poor, who cannot afford transportation to clinics and are then labeled “non-compliant” and allowed to drop out of the system without follow-up; and family members of TB patients.  In response, HealthRight International has developed a comprehensive TB education strategy, enhanced the knowledge and skills of health providers through conferences and workshops, expanded TB knowledge among those most vulnerable groups, and improved adherence to treatment through innovative incentive programs.