Japan – a global leader in finding TB solutions: Asia-Pacific Region Conference (APRC) 2017

Over 600 participants from 42 countries attended the 6th Asia Pacific Union Region Conference in Tokyo, Japan, between 22-25 March. Organised by the Japan Anti-Tuberculosis Association (JATA) and The Union’s Asia Pacific Region, the conference theme centred on ‘TB-Free Asia Pacific - Accelerate Steps Toward Healthy Lungs.’

The opening address by Dr Nishikawa from JATA presented an overview of Japan’s contribution to global tuberculosis (TB) control from the 1950s to the present day, from the advancement of technologies underpinning national TB programmes to mass screening techniques and the development of essential drugs used to combat TB.  

“It is no coincidence that Japan’s rate of TB has declined by 10 percent year on year.  I want to reinforce our commitment to supporting our global colleagues in accelerating the decline of this disease in other countries.  The Asia Pacific region accounts for a quarter of the world’s global TB burden – there is much work still to be done.”

The conference programme featured a wide range of plenary lectures and symposia, covering subjects including multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB); tobacco use and control; new vaccines for TB prevention and treatment; and active TB case finding.   All topics that reflect wider global concerns and in which accelerated progress is essential if the World Health Organization’s (WHO) End TB Strategy is to realise its goal by 2030.

A particularly topical session was devoted to TB care and control in migrant populations. Experts from the International Organization of Migration (IOM); WHO; JATA and the Australian Government’s Department of Immigration outlined the challenges and potential solutions, agreeing that migration affects diverse populations and therefore creates diverse issues.  There is no single blueprint and therefore no one solution.  All the speakers asserted that addressing TB in migrants was not optional and had many other, little-known benefits.  Patrick Duigan from the IOM, said, “Protecting the global health of migrants is an investment not only in public health but in global economies - but it requires inter-country participation and collaboration. Without that, no solution is either workable or sustainable.” More information on this topic is available in the conference programme (PDF 109KB) 

Despite Japan’s relatively contained TB incidence, cases of drug-resistant TB represent a countrywide issue.  The incidence of MDR-TB is not extensive in itself, but chronic occurrence of extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) within MDR-TB patients is high – at 29 percent.

The Union’s Chen-Yuan Chiang participated in a symposium on ‘MDR-TB, epidemiology and management’, about the clinical and programmatic management of drug-resistant TB in light of new WHO guidelines, particularly related to the implementation of shortened MDR-TB regimens.  On this area, Chen-Yuan Chiang presented the practical approaches necessary for the implementation of shorter treatment regimens. 

He said, “It is imperative that the situation of each country is taken into account. A tailored approach, sensitive to individual regional circumstances is key.”  The Union’s recently launched MDR-TB programme addresses this exact issue and more.

Around the conference, delegates discussed their own experiences and challenges. One participant from China said, “580,000 incidences of MDR-TB is a vast and worrying figure. We must make progress, not tomorrow but now.  This conference helps to bring together the experts who can make that happen and creates the will to make that happen.”

A delegate from the USA said, “How our biggest cities deal with air pollution has implications for future public health strategies.  For TB and lung health, decisions made now by politicians and their counterparts in industry, transport and the environment, will prove fundamental.” 

As Conference President, Toru Mori, from the Research Institute of TB, JATA, stressed in the opening ceremony, “The road to the end-TB target is still a long one.  International collaboration is vital to the elimination of TB and the promotion of lung health.  I am proud that the 6th Asia Pacific Conference provides a platform for informed debate and discussion, so that this international collaboration can take root”.

Visit the website for the APRC2017

Find out more about The Union’s Asia Pacific Region