Tuberculosis today kills more people than it did in 1882, when Dr. Robert Koch discovered the bacillus that causes infection. The disease is the leading infectious cause of death worldwide and among the top 10 causes of death worldwide—with 1.5 million deaths in 2018 alone. In the United States, approximately 1 in 24 people are living with a TB infection. Worldwide, tuberculosis affects millions and global efforts have saved nearly 63 million lives since 2000. All this despite the fact that tuberculosis is both curable and preventable—with standard successful treatment involving a 6-month course of antimicrobial drugs that demands rigorous and exacting medication adherence.
Medication adherence in tuberculosis treatment requires continuous support and patient-centered interventions. Directly Observed Therapy (DOT), the practice of watching a patient take every dose of medication, is endorsed by the CDC as the gold standard of care for TB treatment. But the protocol requires patients to receive and take medication via daily visits to health departments or clinics, an onerous process many patients find prohibitively challenging. Video Directly Observed Therapy (vDOT) enables healthcare providers to witness daily medication ingestion, but reduces the burden on patient and provider and minimizes travel and appointment time. This asynchronous method decreases friction while enhancing efficiency in the everyday medication adherence experience for those with chronic illnesses, including TB.
The CDC 2021 TB Elimination Champions
Annually, the CDC’s Division of Tuberculosis Elimination reaches out to the public to nominate that year’s TB Elimination Champions. These Champions are experts in the field and are often pioneers of innovative treatment methods to fight active infections and end the continued transmission of tuberculosis in the United States. This project acknowledges the hard work of organizations and individuals who have made significant contributions to ending TB in their communities.
This year’s cohort also highlights adaptable and innovative strategies used by the Champions to combat tuberculosis in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
TB and emocha
emocha has been working with state, city, and local health departments to manage their TB patients since 2013: using our video DOT platform. Over the past six years, emocha has partnered with over 400 health departments across the country to implement VDOT specifically for tuberculosis management. Our asynchronous VDOT has secured over 94% rates of adherence for patients with TB.
This Year’s Champions and emocha
Seven of the Champions this year are users of emocha’s vDOT platform, and vDOT was specifically featured by the CDC as a modality that enables providers to ensure a continuous stream of care: even during lockdown and stay-at-home measures during the pandemic. According to the CDC, “This year’s TB Elimination Champions highlight the ways the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted TB control services, causing a shift in staff roles and responsibilities as well as resources in public health departments and healthcare facilities across the United States to address the ongoing needs of the response.” emocha is incredibly honored to be a small part of these stories, and to provide an asynchronous vDOT platform that drives some of these Champions forward to be leaders in the fight against TB.
The 2021 Champions we partner with are: Chima Mbakwem from Guam, the Houston Public Health Labs Staff, the Harris County Public Health TB Elimination program in Texas, the Jefferson County Department of Health TB Program in Alabama, Dr. Boneta from Texas DSHS, the San Diego County TB Elimination Initiative (TBEI), and the Texas Department of State Health Services’ local and regional staff along the Texas/Mexico border in Harlingen, Texas.