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President Aquino signs into law the comprehensive tuberculosis elimination plan

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno S. Aquino III has approved the bill seeking to provide for a national program for the elimination of tuberculosis (TB) in the country.
Signed by the President on April 26, Republic Act No. 10767 tasks the Department of Health (DOH) Secretary to establish a comprehensive action plan, consisting of strategies and targets in addressing the disease; prevention, treatment, care and support system; development and application of technologies; strengthening of linkages with local and international organizations for possible partnership in education, advocacy, research and funding assistance; establishment of a review and monitoring system to gather data and monitor the progress made in the elimination of tuberculosis; and immediate mobilization of anti-TB services during and after natural and man-made disasters through collaborative efforts of national and local governments and other entities.
Section 5 of the Act states that “the National Coordinating Committee (NCC) and the Regional Coordinating Committee (RCC) of the DOH shall serve as the National TB Control Program’s arm in strengthening and supporting nationwide capacity for program operations and bringing collaborative efforts between the public and private sector”.
To strengthen the Regional Centers for Human Development in the provision of health services to eliminate TB, the health secretary shall provide free laboratory services through DOH-retained hospitals; provide reliable supply of drugs to patients for free by ensuring that local health centers, through coordination with local government units (LGUs) concerned, have sufficient supply of medicines for the communities they serve; undertake public information and education programs to train the public on basic ways and means to prevent the spread of the disease; train and enhance the capability of health providers in both public and private hospitals; ensure the proper monitoring of TB cases in the country; and ensure that monitoring services are extended as far as practicable, at the lowest local level health unit.
The Act also mandates the DOH secretary, in coordination with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), to encourage the faculty of schools of medicine, nursing or medical technology and allied health institutions, to intensify information and education programs, including the development of curricula, to significantly increase the opportunities for students and for practicing providers to learn the principles and practices of preventing, detecting, managing and controlling TB.
The law likewise states that the health secretary, in coordination with the secretary of the Department of Education (DepEd), shall work for the inclusion of modules on the principles and practices of preventing, detecting, managing and controlling TB in the health curriculum of every public and private elementary and high school.
The DOH, in coordination with the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), shall encourage local media outlets to launch a media campaign on tuberculosis control, treatment and management, using all forms of multimedia and other electronic means of communication. The media campaign shall include materials that would discourage the general public from spitting in public places and exhibiting unhygienic behavior that tend to undermine the overall effort of preventing the spread of the disease.
According to the law, the Food and Drug Administration shall strengthen its implementation of the “No prescription, No anti-TB drugs” to regulate the sale and use of anti-TB drugs in the market. It shall also ensure the quality of TB drugs distributed in the market.
The law also mandates the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to expand its benefit package for TB patients to include new, relapse and return-after-default cases, and extension of treatment. The PhilHealth shall enhance its present outpatient Directly Observed Treatment Short Course (DOTS) package to make it more responsive to patients’ needs. It shall also increase the number of accredited DOTS facilities to widen target beneficiaries who may avail of reimbursements.
Funding for the implementation of the provisions of RA No. 10767 shall be charged against the appropriations of the DOH, DepEd, CHED and PIA under the General Appropriations Act.

Criselda Cabangon David, a happy mother of two kids, is a full-time Sociologist at the City Government of Lucena, Quezon Province. She is currently the Managing Editor of Ang Diaryo Natin Sunday News, a weekly local community newspaper in the Philippines and an active member of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.