Strengthening Zimbabwe's National TB Control Program

Earlier this year, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) renewed the four grants totaling US$480,000 that support ongoing public health-related research and training at Africa University.

These TB Commitment Grants successfully issued through the USAID Tuberculosis Implementation Framework Agreement (TIFA) project led by JSI Research and Training Institute, fund AU to support the development of a national TB research technical working group, increase access to specialized care through the implementation of the Extension for Community Health Outcomes (ECHO) approach. The work involves strengthening the tracking of TB training information through the expansion of an online database known as TrainSMART and training to build competencies in the use of tuberculosis data at all levels.

Dr. Elton Mugomeri of AU's health sciences dept. leads a cross-disciplinary team.Dr. Eltony Mugomeri, the project director, said he was drawn to the project because of his research interest in infectious diseases, including TB.

“My past research experience on TB,” he said, “includes diagnostic techniques for TB in the high HIV/TB burden settings, tuberculosis infection prevention and control, and evaluation of the effectiveness of isoniazid preventive therapy.”

The project is a joint endeavor of AU and Zimbabwe’s National Tuberculosis Program (NTB).

It aims to provide evidence for TB program performance, decision making, and planning. The project seeks to address barriers to TB care and make TB services more patient-centered.

With Mugomeri at the helm, four co-investigators oversee specific aspects of the project: Dr. Fadzai Mutseyekwa, TB Research Technical Working Group; Joseph Chinzvende, ECHO; Richard Fotsin, TrainSMART; and Elliot Chikaka, Making Sense of TB Data.

The ECHO platform encourages sharing knowledge with health care workers in rural and underserved areas. It addresses health disparities, especially access, quality, coverage, and safety. The platform will enable TB case-based learning and promote best practices and monitoring of outcomes.

According to the World Health Organization, Zimbabwe is a high-burden country for TB, MDR-TB as well as TB/HIV co-infection. The country ranks 17th among the world’s high TB burden countries, and fourth according to incidence per capita. The Zimbabwe government is committed to ending TB by 2030. By 2025, the National TB Program aims to reduce TB incidence and mortality by 80 percent.

By Barbara Dunlap-Berg, a freelance writer and editor based in Carbondale, Illinois.