Addressing a session on TB in the workplace, Uplekar said that if the goal was to identify, treat and diagnose as many cases as possible, government would have to partner with the workplace.
‘Three quarters of TB deaths happen between the productive ages of 15 and 50 years and workers are exposed to TB much more within a workplace setting,’ said Uplekar.
He used examples from Bangladesh where garment workers are 2.4 times more likely to contract TB and the mines in South Africa were at least 2 000 of 100 000 workers have TB.
‘On average workers who contract TB lose between three and four months of work, between 20 and 30% of annual income is lost and 15% of annual income is lost due to premature death. In South Africa the loss to GDP per capita is 16%,’ Uplekar revealed.
A WHO and International Labour Organisation study found that 30% of workplaces did not provide any services to facilitate TB diagnosis, 57% of workplaces did not address TB through their HIV programmes and 37% of workplaces did not provide any services to facilitate TB treatment. On the flipside 95% of governments wanted these programmes to be offered via the workplace.
Uplekar said it could be done. In Bangladesh garment factories pooled their resources towards a shared health centre where suspect cases are sent for screening, diagnosis and treatment. ‘In Kenya the tea plantations and government are working so closely together that there is almost no distinguishing whether it is a workplace or government programme,’ said Uplekar.
He reminded business that in a day of financial crisis HIV and TB were ‘necessaries’ that needed to be part of corporate social duty and not just corporate social responsibility.