GBCHealth speaks with J&J and The Global Fund about growing TB initiative
Business plays a key role in the fight against tuberculosis (TB). As part of GBCHealth’s efforts to catalyze cross-sector partnerships that leverage the power and resources of the business community to transform the health of society, we are proud to partner with the Ending Workplace TB (EWTB) initiative this World TB Day to support the engagement of businesses in the fight against TB.
Originally announced at the 2020 World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting, the initiative revealed a new group of twelve member companies in recognition of World TB Day. These new companies from across countries and sectors join EWTB’s founding partners, including Johnson and Johnson, Royal Philips and Fullerton Health. EWTB also features non-corporate partners, such as the Global Fund, the Stop TB Partnership, WEF, the Confederation of Indian Industry and USAID India. EWTB announced that GBCHealth would be joining this group of partners today, along with India Health Fund, and Santé en Entreprise as partners.
TB has been, prior to COVID-19, the world’s deadliest infectious disease. It also costs the global economy billions (USD) annually, due in large part to work absences necessitated by treatment and poor health caused by TB.
EWTB works to leverage the potential of businesses in countries disproportionately impacted by TB to develop awareness, detection and treatment programs, with the goal of reaching millions of workers, their families and communities. Any company interested in joining the initiative can contact EWTB via email here, or through the initiative’s website.
For more insight about the potential to reimagine workplace TB programs, see this commentary in BMJ Global Health which mentions the EWTB initiative.
GBCHealth spoke with Judith Kallenberg, Senior Director, External Affairs at Johnson & Johnson Global Public Health and Steven Parkinson, Senior Adviser at the Global Fund, both EWTB founding partners, about the initiative and why it’s important for companies to prioritize workplace TB and get involved.
Why should companies join Ending Workplace TB?
Judith Kallenberg: “We think there are six key reasons for companies to tackle TB in their workforces and supply chains:
- To reduce the risk of a TB outbreak among a company’s workers
- To strengthen a company’s workplace health offering with relatively simple steps that can be integrated with other health programming
- To see increased productivity through reduced presenteeism, absenteeism and time-off due to ill health
- To build and leverage structures that will protect against the spread of other lethal respiratory pathogens, like COVID-19
- To strengthen brand and profile with an increasingly health-aware public
- To see an overall return on investment from enhancing your offering on workplace health”
Steven Parkinson: “In a nutshell – because tackling TB in the workplace is good for business. There is an obvious moral imperative to take action against the TB epidemic – as one of the world’s leading causes of death, it claims 1.4 million lives every year – but there is also a broader, economic benefit for companies. We know that people contracting TB can lose months of time from work. That is a huge cost to them, but also to employers through paying sick leave, hiring and training replacements, and so on. Also, TB is infectious, so untreated TB in the workplace can easily spread. By joining Ending Workplace TB, companies access support to strengthen their workplace TB programs which will help their workers, and their own bottom line.”
Why is it important to engage now to fight TB in the workplace?
Judith Kallenberg: “The COVID-19 pandemic is threatening the hard-fought progress made over many years against TB – more and more TB cases are going undiagnosed, including many cases among workers. Since TB and COVID-19 share certain symptoms and methods of prevention (increased ventilation is one example), there are many opportunities to build on and strengthen workplace health programs in a way that improves the resilience of companies against future pandemic threats and protects their workers from TB, COVID-19, and the next respiratory outbreak.”
Steven Parkinson: “The data suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly disrupted TB diagnosis and treatment services, and all signs point to an increase in TB cases and deaths as a result. The world has been making steady progress against TB over the last decade and COVID-19 threatens to overturn that. That obviously means more people will suffer, but it also means that companies face a greater threat from TB. Yet alongside the threat there is also an opportunity. Forward-thinking company leaders are more aware than ever about the risks of ill-health to their business, and the role that the workplace can play in the spread, as well as the care and prevention, of infectious diseases. They are recognizing the imperative to act now, and grasping the opportunity to take the fight to TB in their workplaces and those of their suppliers, ultimately benefiting their business, their employees and the communities they serve.”