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Papers/Reports | July 10, 2008

Maguindanao Tuberculosis Control Project

Operations Research to Assess Gender Inequalities in Access to TB Services for Women

In an effort to staunch the spread of TB, the World Health Organization set goals to detect tuberculosis cases at a rate of 70 percent and to cure patients at a rate of 85 percent by 2005. The primary strategy was to use the Directly Observed Treatment Short Course (DOTS) strategy. Only 26 countries achieved those goals. Among them was the Philippines, one of the 22 “high-burden” countries that account for 80 percent of the world’s TB cases.

Because of its success in detecting and curing TB cases, Catholic Relief Services chose the Philippines to study how the DOTS strategy can be further strengthened, particularly by identifying and closing any gender gaps in the diagnosis and treatment of women. Although more men than women worldwide are diagnosed with TB and die from it, the disease nonetheless is a leading infectious cause of death for women. And because tuberculosis affects women most often when they are economically and reproductively active, their children and families often shoulder its devastating impact.

This operations research study proposes that part of the gender gap in tuberculosis diagnosis and treatment exists because of inequalities in women’s access to TB services. Cultural and economic factors combine with the epidemiological characteristics of TB to put women increasingly at risk for the disease. The study uncovered key disparities in TB services for men and women, providing the basis for recommendations to design more culturally and gender-sensitive TB health programs – thereby improving prevention, diagnosis and treatment for both women and men.