A Bigger View: US public TB prevention initiatives with a broader health systems perspective
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Background: Tuberculosis (TB) is a complex disease and persists as a greater threat than most understand. Responsibility for TB treatment and control has generally fallen to public health agencies. Unfortunately, important limitations to the public health sector’s of TB control are beginning to show. UNTHSC recently hosted a “systems thinking symposium” with the goal of helping public health authorities view their work in broader context. This project presents an analysis of industry perspectives on public TB control initiatives drawn from symposium discussions. Purpose: We analyzed 36 hours of discussions to better understand how CDC’s messaging around TB prevention and managing latent TB infection (LTBI) in particular is heard, accepted, and potentially acted on in various health care sectors. Methods: Approximately 30 participants from across the US healthcare system discussed how incentives and disincentives within their industry might affect TB-related public health initiatives. Discussion sessions focused on how at-risk patients self-identify and seek care; how providers identify potentially at-risk patients; how clinical evaluation is initiated and conducted; treatment initiation; and treatment completion. We analyzed discussion transcripts to identify industry perspectives, opportunities and barriers, and potential gaps in TB control initiatives. The unit of study was the program or industry represented by responses, not individual respondents, and the North Texas Regional IRB determined the project not to be human subjects research. Results: We identified the 15 most commonly used context appropriate words from a 78,604 word transcript. These were mapped to broad themes such as improving screening target populations, continuity of care, and potential roles of the non-public health sector. Notable barriers were identified within the clinical and managed care sectors, including consistent questioning of TB prevention as a priority activity, including potential risks, benefits, and the value proposition. Conclusions: CDC’s promotion of targeted LTBI screening and treatment, and TB prevention in general, is not well reflected in the attitudes of the non-public healthcare sector in our sample. Most health care professionals would choose not to prioritize LTBI due to the logistics of insurance and more urgent and emergent diseases. It may be important for CDC to consider who and how they target TB elimination messaging in order to enhance impact.