Joint Message from the Minister of Health and Minister of Indigenous Services on World Tuberculosis Day – March 24, 2019
Today, on World Tuberculosis Day, we reaffirm our commitment to eliminating tuberculosis (TB) in Canada. This disease is preventable and curable, yet it remains one of the world’s most common infectious diseases. While Canada has one of the lowest TB rates in the world, this disease disproportionately affects Indigenous Peoples and newcomers to Canada from countries where TB is more common.
Canada fully supports the commitments made by world leaders last September at the first-ever United Nations High Level Meeting on TB, including to end the TB epidemic globally by 2030. The agreement from countries around the world to fight against this preventable disease is a historic and important development.
This year’s theme from the World Health Organization is “It’s time,” highlighting the urgent need to act on our commitments to eliminating TB.
It’s time to end the stigma. TB is a disease of social inequality. People without access to quality health care, housing and healthy food, or who are living in poverty, are often more susceptible to TB. This can create stigma and discrimination that prevent people who are at risk from seeking care, and also make it more difficult for them to continue treatment. The Government of Canada is working with Indigenous, federal, provincial and territorial partners to ensure that underserved populations have access to screening, testing, treatment and education. Access is a crucial part of helping to reduce stigma.
It’s time to improve treatment options and to reduce the burden of TB on individuals, families and communities both at home and abroad. To do this, we have taken a number of steps. In 2017, our government made regulatory changes to allow for rifapentine, a Food and Drug Administration approved medication in the United States, to be imported for communities experiencing high rates of TB. Rifapentine is a medication for latent tuberculosis infection that has a shorter treatment course than the current options.
It’s time to re-double our efforts to support First Nations and Inuit communities towards achieving the goal of TB elimination, through distinctions-based, culturally-safe care while recognizing the right to self-determination. Last year, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) and the Government of Canada announced our joint commitment to eliminating TB across Inuit Nunangat by 2030, and reducing active TB by at least 50% by 2025. Working towards this goal, ITK released the Inuit TB Elimination Framework in December 2018, which highlights the need for enhanced community-wide prevention, screening, early diagnosis and treatment, and calls for concerted action to address the social determinants of health that contributed to high rates of TB in Inuit communities.
Through our partnership with Inuit communities and the Governments of Nunavut and Nunatsiavut, the Government of Canada deployed four mobile TB screening clinics to Inuit communities over the past year. The mobile clinics provide timely access to TB-related health services, allowing for early diagnosis and local treatment to take place while minimizing the impact of cultural isolation and language barriers. These clinics are saving lives and helping prevent infections from spreading.
We also continue to engage with First Nations partners and provincial counterparts to strengthen efforts to address high rates of TB in First Nations communities. We are promoting increased awareness and education on TB for First Nations, while facilitating access to equitable and culturally-appropriate treatment and follow up care. Understanding cultural perspectives and traditional knowledge of First Nations and Inuit improves collaboration and mobilizes the appropriate resources to support the elimination of active TB.
Much has been accomplished over the past year, but more needs to be done. We are encouraged by the research activity and collaboration among scientists, health professionals and community members across the country dedicated to helping Canadians affected by TB have access to the information and health care they need.
We commend the efforts of the many individuals and groups active in the awareness, prevention and treatment of this disease. We all have a role to play-visit Canada.ca/Tuberculosis to learn more about TB and how you can help to address it.
The Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Health
The Honourable Seamus O’Regan, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Indigenous Services