(from right) Dawa Phunkyi, chief administrator of Delek hospital, Dr Zorba Paster of the University of Wisconsin, Dr Richard Chaisson of Johns Hopkins University addressing a press conference on TB control plan in Gangchen Kyishong, Dharamshala, India, on 3 June 2008/ Photo Credit: Sangjey Kep
Dharamshala, June 3 - The senior officials of the Tibetan Delek hospital today announced a joint initiative with support from John Hopkins University and an Italian organisation to help control tuberculosis (TB) in the Tibetan community-in-exile.
"Delek hospital has played a major role in combating tuberculosis in the Tibetan population for almost three decades. Unfortunately, limited resources have hindered progress," said Mr Dawa Phunkyi, chief administrator of Delek hospital at a press conference this morning.
"Recently, Delek has reached out to engage international partners in addressing challenges in TB control," he added.
The Tibetan community in exile has strikingly high rates of TB and Multi Drug Resistant (MDR) TB cases, which is largely affecting young adults. The proposed plan will be implemented over a period of 5 years to reduce both types of the disease.
The plan is based on improving TB diagnosis and detection of drug resistance, strengthening the disease case management, increasing the proportion of patients completing treatment, and outreach into the community to identity and prevent the disease in high-risk areas.
A team of experts - Dr Zorba Paster of University of Wisconsin and Dr Richard Chaisson of Johns Hopkins University - are currently working to make improvements in the program at the Delek hospital. They have been meeting the key leaders in the Tibetan community-in-exile and consulting with health professionals to prepare for the new initiative.
During the press conference, the team presented the latest data on how TB affects the Tibetan population in exile, particularly targeting the most vulnerable young adults between the ages of 15 - 29.
They said increased detection of the disease, improved therapy, education and a process of Directly Observed Therapy (DOT) are crucial to rid Tibetans of this scourge.
The project was first mooted several years ago, when Dr Tsetan Sadutsang, Delek hospital's chief medical officer, began collaboration with Dr Paster and Dr Richard during a visit in the US.
The team of doctors apprised the new initiative to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, which received his strong support. They also met Sakya Gongma Rinpoche, who also expressed his backing for the important project.
Next week, the team will be meeting with officials in Italy, who are also supporting the project.
With increased attention and additional resources, the project aims to reduce the burden of TB in the Tibetan community substantially over the next several years.