$100,000 landmark donation will aid The Union’s programmatic and advocacy work on childhood TB

The Union is delighted to announce that its work in childhood tuberculosis (TB) has been significantly boosted by the generous gift of USD $100,000 by husband and wife Professor Jeffrey Starke and Professor Joan Shook from the Texas Children's Hospital.

Childhood TB is an uncontrolled epidemic. An estimated one million children fall sick to TB annually but only one in three children with TB is diagnosed, much less treated. Without treatment, 22 percent of children with TB under 15 years of age and 44 percent of children under five will die. But 99 percent of children with TB who receive treatment survive. This is fundamental child neglect, given that the tools and approaches that could prevent so many of these cases – and save hundreds of lives – already exist.

Giving a keynote speech at the 48th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Guadalajara last October, Professor Starke said, “Children have the same right as adults to benefit from TB care and research. It is time that we put these words into action, and the elimination of TB depends on it.”

The donation from Professors Starke and Shook will in part go towards influencing policy makers to prioritise childhood TB, particularly in the build up to the first ever United Nations’ High-Level Meeting (HLM) on TB later this year. An advocacy white paper on childhood TB and accompanying communications will draw together the latest advice on childhood TB and advocate for immediate actions to be taken.

Professor Starke said, “We are privileged to be able to give this donation to The Union to help demonstrate that we can cause rapid declines in the morbidity and mortality of childhood TB with simple tools and a little attention. We hope that the lessons learned from The Union’s projects and their outreach to TB programmes and healthcare providers all over the world will create a real movement to eliminate childhood TB in our lifetime.”

The donation will also support the Union’s DETECT Child TB project in Uganda and hope to encourage further donations for this much needed work.

In Uganda, half of the population are children and the TB burden is among the highest in the world. The Union’s DETECT Child TB project was first launched in Kampala and has successfully introduced local child TB diagnosis, treatment, and prevention services in two districts in Uganda. The results from the project so far have been extremely promising.  The proportion of children diagnosed increased from under five percent to 40 percent in both districts during the first year.

The project is saving lives like four-year-old Françoise Nandaka - pictured above with her mother, Kasuubo Eunice, 35, at their home in Wakiso district, Entebbe, Uganda, following six months of TB treatment.

Professor Shook said, “We can achieve huge impact on childhood mortality with better organisation, an emphasis on children and utilising the proven techniques of prevention with a vaccine for all newborns and preventive therapy for children exposed to a household member with contagious TB. What has been missing is the political will to do something about this. The Union’s project in Uganda is demonstrating that prevention and early detection of TB in children saves lives.  Now we have to educate healthcare providers and, especially, health policy makers that, for a very low cost, we can prevent hundreds of thousands of childhood deaths in a very short period of time.”

José Luis Castro, Executive Director, The Union said, “The global response to childhood TB needs a paradigm shift. In the first UN HLM on TB later this year, it is imperative that the unique needs of infants, children and adolescents should be given prominence in that agenda and the resulting political declaration. The Union is grateful to Professor Starke and Professor Shook for allowing us this vital opportunity to raise the visibility of childhood TB and strengthen the response in this critical of years.” 

Professor Jeffrey Starke is an internationally recognised expert in the management of childhood TB and mycobacteria infections. He has served as the Director of the Children's Tuberculosis Clinic at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston for almost 30 years. He has participated in the writing of numerous clinical guidelines for the City of Houston, State of Texas, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Thoracic Society, the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, and the World Health Organization.

Professor Joan E. Shook, MD, MBA, is nationally and internationally renowned for her work in Pediatric Emergency Medicine. She is Chief Clinical Information Officer and Deputy Chief Quality Officer, at Texas Children's Hospital. She is also Professor of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine.

Photo copyright Javier Galeano / The Union.