Canadian Tuberculosis Project in Ecuador Commended

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Canadian Tuberculosis Project in Ecuador Commended

Quito , Ecuador August 29, 2005 - Canada won praise from leading international health experts for its success in fighting tuberculosis at the Sixth Annual Meeting of StopTB in the Americas, which was held in Quito, Ecuador, Aug 23-26, 2005.

Led by the Canadian Lung Association (CLA) with funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the StopTB program in Ecuador is a model for successful TB control.   When the project began in 2000, Ecuador had the worst TB control program in the Americas. As a result of the Canadian project, Ecuador is now well on its way to having a model program in the Americas. The main thrust of the project is to implement the DOTS strategy for TB control as promoted by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Delegates visited local health centres that received training in TB control from the Canadian project, providing a first-hand look at the success of the project. All of the delegates from countries throughout the Americas were very impressed with the progress in Ecuador, said Dr. Mirtha del Granado, Director of TB Control for the Pan-American Health Organization.

The project has trained over 3500 doctors, nurses and other health workers in DOTS and has implemented the DOTS strategy in over half of the health centres in the country. These results represent one of the best examples of how international support can make a huge contribution in the global effort to control tuberculosis, added del Granado.

Future of project jeopardized as funding set to expire

Funding for the project includes $6.2 million from CIDA and $1 million from the Lung Association. However, Ecuador is not on the list of 25 priority countries that CIDA announced in April 2005. In spite of the success of the project, the funding will expire in March 2006.

There are over 500,000 cases of TB in the Americas region. Worldwide, tuberculosis remains the leading cause of death from an infectious disease, killing 1.8 million annually.  There are 27,000 cases of TB in Ecuador compared to 1600 in Canada, which translates to a rate about 30 times higher, as Ecuador 's population is about 40% of Canada 's.

In the areas in which DOTS has been implemented, the health centres have achieved the WHO target of an 85% rate of treatment success. However, only six of the 22 provinces in Ecuador will have DOTS implementation by the completion of the current phase of the project.

I was very pleased with the level of TB control services at the health centre that I visited in Quito, said Dr. José Figueroa, representing WHO at the meeting. The progress is excellent, but WHO would like to see DOTS implemented in all provinces of Ecuador, added Figueroa.

President Alfredo Palacios of Ecuador has written a letter to Prime Minister Paul Martin requesting crucial continuing support for the Canadian Lung Association to complete the implementation of DOTS in all 22 provinces of Ecuador. If this last resort attempt to secure funding fails, the progress in fighting tuberculosis in Ecuador will unravel and millions of lives will be threatened.

The Canadian Lung Association is doing all it can to find funds to continue the project, said Dr. Brian Graham, CLA Vice President for International Development and Director of the project. I believe Canada has a moral responsibility to finish the job it started. We have a great team of Ecuadorians and Canadians working well together and we need to maintain the momentum. Quitting now will jeopardize the sustainability of the progress that has already been made.

The Lung Association is one of the oldest non-profit voluntary organizations in the nation. It provides advocacy, research, education and programs to promote healthy air, healthy people and healthy lungs. Key areas of focus include: outdoor and indoor air quality, COPD, asthma, smoking prevention and cessation, flu, and lung disease management. For more information please call us at (613) 569-6411 or visit us at our website at http://www.lung.ca

Media Contact: Dr. Brian Graham

306-343-9640

brian.graham@sk.lung.ca

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