IN 2018, two sisters – ages 2 and 7 – in Bulacan Province were diagnosed with drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) and drug susceptible tuberculosis (DS-TB), respectively.
TB can be difficult to diagnose in young children in part because their symptoms can be non-specific. However, the disease rarely is fatal in children if they receive treatment.
Thankfully, timely treatment is exactly what the sisters received. They finished their course of treatment in 2019 at Rogaciano Mercado Memorial Hospital (RMMH), located about 35 miles north of Metro Manila.
They also received guidance from TB Heals – a patient support group – and their community. Now the sisters are TB-free and enrolled in school.
“We will always be grateful to our treatment partners led by the medical staff of RMMH,” said the mother of the two young TB survivors.
Hope and resilience
Clearly, there is value in educating the public about the effectiveness of TB screening and treatment.
In January 2020, the RMMH TB nurses who treated the two girls introduced the family to staff from USAid’s TB Platforms Project, implemented by URC. This meeting led USAid’s TB Platforms staff to create a concept for a book. The book tells the story of the two young TB survivors who overcame the disease with support of family and the community. The ultimate message to TB patients? Remain strong.
“I will not forget how the TB nurses and staff encouraged our children to be heart-strong as they engaged my husband and I to be hands-on in monitoring the treatment of our two daughters,” their mother said. She also expressed gratitude that the government provides free medicines for TB patients.
USAid’s TB Platforms Social and Behavior Change Communications Specialist Diwata Paredes and a third-party illustrator, Bea Villanueva, prepared the “Tibay ng Dibdib” or heart-strong, story and coloring book.
The storybook highlights the important partnership between the hospital and the patients’ community, said Michelle Lang-Alli, director of the USAid Philippines Office of Health, during the book launch at RMMH.
The book explains how everyone in the community plays a role in encouraging each other to seek a diagnosis and, if TB-positive, complete treatment.
Written in English and Filipino, the book was to be presented as part of World TB Day celebrations in March 2020. However, the activity was postponed due to the Covid-19 quarantines.
The book finally was launched on Sept. 29 at the RMMH in Region 3 and in October with the Department of Education in Quezon City.
USAid’s TB Platforms supported the creation of the Tibay ng Dibdib - or heart-strong - story and coloring book. The books tell the story of two young TB survivors who overcame the disease with support of family and the community.
Educating kids, parents and communities about TB
“This is just one of the many victories that we want to share with the public – that TB is an infectious disease but it can be cured. It takes a whole village to support a TB patient - through partnerships,” Lang-Alli said.
Using children as purveyors of health education provides a sustainable platform for improving awareness, knowledge, and ultimately health-seeking behavior in any community.
TB Platforms is sharing the book by providing 2,500 copies of the coloring book and 200 storybooks to RMMH in Bulacan and the Quezon City Deped. These will be distributed to the students of elementary schools; promoting the storybook during the National Inquirer read-along session, which has a viewership of 500,000 people. The storybook will be read by TV celebrity and EndTB ambassador Alden Richards on Nov. 24. Four hundred copies of the storybook will be provided to the read-along session’s registered participants;
Working with the Deped-NCR to include the books as a learning material for health education in all elementary schools. Additionally, the project provided the Deped-Quezon City with 100 USB drives, each with a digital copy of the book; and securing a commitment from the DOH Center for Health Development in Central Luzon to pay for copies of the books to be distributed to other health facilities in the region in 2021.
“USAid’s TB Platforms will measure the effectiveness of our TB messages – including these books – in partnership with our partner health facilities, elementary schools, and media institutions,” said Marianne Calnan, USAid’s TB Platforms Chief of Party. “We will track how many children were screened, how many of their families were screened, and any increments in the uptake of TB preventive therapy.” (PR)