Continuing their commitment to both community engagement and seeking to improve patient recruitment, the team in Tanzania organised a meeting in June, with the District Community Health Leaders (DCHL) following on from an earlier meeting in May. DCHL comprises eleven members from the Songwe and Mbeya regions who are directly involved in TB active case finding at community level.
After all being welcomed by Dr. Lilian Tina Minja (Principal Investigator) and Simeon Mwanyonga (Social Scientist), the guest speaker, Dr. Nixon Sam (MDH, responsible for coordinating TB-active case finding in the Southern Highlands) emphasised the benefits of the mutual collaboration between NIMR-MMRC and MDH in ensuring TB effective case detection at community level.
The meeting prioritised hearing the DCHL members experiences, and importantly, their suggestions as to best ways of moving forward in identifying and linking to care, any suspected and confirmed TB patients. NIMR-MMRC were also able to provide information on ERASE-TB, as well as other TB related activities in relation to diagnosis, treatment and prevention.
Dr. Alfred Mfinanga (ERASE-TB study coordinator) presented on ERASE-TB, explaining that this three-year project aims at the early diagnosis of TB among people who are at risk of developing active TB by using new diagnostic tests. Potential study participants include mycobacteriologically confirmed TB patients that have been diagnosed TB positive from health facilities in Mbeya and Songwe regions and then referred to the TB research clinic in the Mbeya Regional Referral Hospital (MRRH). Once consented and assessed for inclusion and exclusion criteria, members of their households are invited to the study clinic for study procedures.
Recommendations included establishing an improved patient referral mechanism from health facilities and a meeting will be organised involving health facility workers (DOT nurses, Lab personnel, TB coordinators) to ensure a smooth referral system. Community Health workers should be proactive in following up TB cases from the community, and this will be done in collaboration with the study sites.
The DCHL are an important group, and this meeting underscores their value and ongoing importance to the ERASE-TB study.