Outreach to raise awareness of TB

PHOTO: Outreach to raise awareness of TB

SINGAPORE - A community outreach programme to educate the public about tuberculosis (TB) may be launched soon, beginning with Bedok Town Secondary School.

The school has been in the spotlight recently as three of its students had contracted TB between April and October.

Community health-care provider Sata CommHealth - formerly known as the Singapore Anti-Tuberculosis Association - has arranged a meeting with the school's vice-principal to discuss ways of educating the students and staff.

Sata CommHealth describes its role as more of an "advocacy" and plans to distribute pamphlets and hold talks from next year, its chief executive, Dr K. Thomas Abraham, said yesterday.

The talks will touch on the diagnosis of TB, its early signs and treatment.

Dr Abraham was speaking at Sata CommHealth's Community Health Day held at its centre in Chai Chee Street.

Minister of State for National Development and Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin was the guest of honour. Free basic health checks were offered at the event, the fourth to be organised this year.

A 73-year-old relief teacher, who wanted to be known only as Meng, said more such screenings should be provided for the elderly. "It's better to discover (illnesses) early so you can be cured faster," she said.

Dr Abraham said the incidence of TB here has increased slightly, but added that this is "not alarming".

However, he aims to instil greater awareness of the disease to prevent more cases.

Those aged 60 and above tend to be more familiar with the disease, he said, but younger people "underestimate TB and how lethal it can be".

"Our main goal is to spread the message that TB is still alive. A lot of people think TB is gone, but it is still there.

"If you look at neighbouring countries, you'll see that they all have much higher rates (of incidence) than us."

The non-profit organisation also hopes to organise talks for other schools. It will also work with various agencies to roll out initiatives islandwide to raise TB awareness.

For example, it is working with the Health Promotion Board to roll out a public-education campaign. Two SBS Transit buses will carry messages informing those who suspect they have TB to get checked and treated.

The campaign will be launched next month and will run for six months.

The Health Ministry was alerted to 2,791 new TB cases last year, up 10.9 per cent from 2009. Last year, 92 students and teachers fell ill with active TB, up from 89 in 2009 and 70 in 2008.

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