Heads of State gathered in New York on 26 September this year at the United Nations General Assembly first-ever high-level meeting on tuberculosis (TB) to accelerate efforts in ending TB and reach all affected people with prevention and care. The theme of this historic meeting was “United to end tuberculosis: an urgent global response to a global epidemic”.

Read the news release: UN General Assembly adopts modalities resolution for the UN High-Level Meeting on TB, 26 September 2018

The high-level meeting on TB is a tremendous and unprecedented step forward by governments and all partners engaged in the fight against TB. It follows on from a very successful Ministerial Conference on Ending TB in Moscow on 16-17 November, 2017 which resulted in high-level commitments from Ministers and other leaders from 120 countries to accelerate progress to end TB.

The high-level meeting should result in an ambitious Political Declaration on TB endorsed by Heads of State that will strengthen action and investments for the end TB response, saving millions of lives.

The International Commission for Occupational Health (ICOH) was happy to confirm that “thanks to an intense year of effort by ICOH, IOHA and other partners, our suggested language related to workers is successfully included in this endorsed Declaration. When viewing the declaration, see Paragraph 17, which identifies ”health care workers, miners and others exposed to silica” as high-risk vulnerable groups. Also see Paragraph 31, which says: “Commit to… implementing primary prevention in high-risk occupations by reducing silica dust exposures in mining, construction and other dusty workplaces, and worker tuberculosis surveillance and infection prevention and control in healthcare settings”.

The rationale and some of the many efforts leading to this success are summarized at http://www.icohweb.org/site/news-detail.asp?id=152

ICOH was represented at the UN TB Meeting by Gwen Brachman, Perry Gottesfeld, Marilyn Fingerhut, and Sophie Kisting. IOHA was represented by Andrea Hiddinga, immediate past President International Occupational Hygiene Association (left in picture).

The NIOH is extremely proud to share that Dr. Sophie Kisting, was a lead developer of the ICOH Statement on “Preventing TB among Health Workers”. The NIOH team also made significant and substantial contributions to the Statement on “Preventing Tuberculosis Among Silica Dust Exposed Workers”. Dr Kisting was also a key presenter at the Africa Side Event held on September 25, prior to the UN TB Meeting. Her outstanding presentation, as termed by ICOH colleagues, was well-received. She addressed “Prevention of TB through inclusive workplace action”.

According to ICOH, the next steps include development of workplans to facilitate assistance to countries and organisations to implement workplace practices to reduce silica in workplaces and to protect health workers. These efforts will take place via the ICOH TB-Silica Subcommittee of SC MinOSH and the TB-Health Worker Subcommittee of SC OH Health Workers. ICOH will be reaching out to ICOH SCs and members, IOHA, and the (currently 65) organizations which endorsed the ICOH TB Statements.

It is incumbent upon each of us as role-players, and decision-makers within the world of work to show support for and commitment to these position papers. Make your endorsements now via the ICOH website.

For more information and resources click here

To read the UN Political Declaration click here

To read President Cyril Ramaphosa’s speech click here

Acknowledgements: Adapted from the WHO and ICOH websites