Colombia Hosts International Workshop on Tuberculosis in Vulnerable Populations

Migration Health

Colombia - IOM and the Colombia Anti-Tuberculosis League, together with the Ministry of Health and Social Protection and Baylor College of Medicine, held an international training on tuberculosis (TB) in vulnerable populations. Held in Bogotá on 1–3 March, the aim of the training was to build Colombia’s capacity to foster actions for the prevention and control of tuberculosis.

The event was financed by the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, and executed in the framework of the World Health Organization (WHO) Strategy to End Tuberculosis.

Those facing complex situations diagnosing and managing TB, including internally displaced persons (IDPs), border communities, children, people living on the streets, or people living with HIV, are just a few examples of what are considered to be vulnerable populations.

The training targeted general and family health practitioners, pulmonologists, internists, heads of local TB programmes, academics, insurance companies, and community and business leaders.

The activity provided a general vision of medical management and the spread of TB in Colombia, with a focus on global experiences managing the illness, including cases of drug-resistant TB. Discussions were held on key aspects including prevention, diagnosis and treatment options, as well as monitoring, managing contacts, and focus on the interrelationship between migration and TB. One discussion panel focused on clinical and programmatic perspectives on Baylor’s Excellence Centers in Africa.

Marcela Rojas, a contractor for the Ministry of Health, explained that in Colombia the incidence of TB has been 25 cases for every 100,000 adult inhabitants and 3.9 cases for every 100,000 children under 15 years old, a pattern that has been sustained for the past ten years.

Rojas highlighted that the success of treatment in Colombia has reached 76 percent in adults and 85 percent in children under 15, although these numbers are under the goal set for the country (90 percent across the entire population).

Speaking at the workshop, Poonam Dhavan, Migration Health Programme Coordinator for the IOM Migration Health Division in Geneva, explained: “Migration is a social determinant of health, and risk factors for TB can be affected by the living and working‎ conditions, and socioeconomic status of vulnerable migrants, including internally displaced persons, or conflict-affected populations or undocumented migrants. Achieving the end TB strategy targets in Colombia will require that no one is left behind including vulnerable populations.”

“The support from the Global Fund over the last five years has enabled us to work with partners in strengthening the capacity of local TB programmes, providing technical assistance, and mobilizing civil society and persons living with TB with the ultimate goal of achieving TB goals in Colombia,” said Beatriz Gutierrez, Migration Health Coordinator for the IOM Mission in Colombia.

"IOM Colombia is proud to have welcomed a distinguished delegation of speakers and participants from the Ministry of Health and Social Protection, National Institutes for Health, Country Coordinating Mechanism for Global Fund, and international experts from WHO, IOM Migration Health Division, Baylor College of Medicine; as well as the many representatives from local TB programmes and civil society in Colombia,” said Alejandro Guidi, IOM Colombia Chief of Mission. “In working with our partners, we look forward to continuing the collaboration to promote health for all in Colombia.”

IOM’s migrant health assessments programme provides a comprehensive range of TB screening-related services, including physical examinations, radiological investigations, tuberculin skin tests, sputum smears and cultures, drug susceptibility testing (DST) and directly observed treatment (DOT).  TB treatment is provided either directly by IOM or through a referral system, in partnership with national tuberculosis programmes (NTPs). 

‎Between 2002 and 2014, IOM examined more than 2.6 million refugees and economic migrants. In 2014 alone, close to 321,000 migrant health assessments were conducted in 77 countries worldwide, primarily in those classified as having mid and high-tuberculosis burdens.

The training was supported by national and international organizations and experts, including the WHO, Baylor College of Medicine, the Texas Children’s Hospital, the Ministry of Health, the National Health Institute, the Colombian Pulmonology Foundation, the Risaralda Comfamiliar Clinic, the Colombian Association for Pediatric Pulmonology, the Colombian Society of Pulmonology and Thoracic Surgery, the Santa Clara Hospital, and the Pontificia Bolivariana University.

For further information, please contact Karen Mora at IOM Colombia Tel. + (57) 1 639 7777, Email: [email protected]

Dr Poonam Dhavan addresses the workshop. Photo: IOM