Championing the political will to end TB

In a Community Common session, a panel discussed how civil society can best create a dialogue with government members and politicians to harness the power of political engagement and put that energy towards ending TB.

The Baroness Alison Suttie, House of Lords, spoke on a panel alongside National Health Service (NHS) nurse Susan Dart, Public Health England’s Dr Jessica Potter and Sanjay Veja, Results UK grassroots campaigner.

Ms Suttie, a member of the UK’s all-party political group on TB (APPG), gave delegates feedback from the politicians’ perspective on what really works to get the attention of representatives, highlighting the importance of sharing human stories. She said:

“Try to avoid jargon – use language that everyone understands, and the thing everyone understands is how we feel about issues. Make it human.”

Dr Jessica Potter and Susan Dart, a TB nurse, spoke about working with TB in the UK, but also about their experience on a recent trip to Cambodia to observe TB programmes in a high burden country and the need to engage with governments to bring about change to healthcare systems.

“Cambodia had problems in terms of a fractured healthcare system and TB thrives in fractured healthcare systems”, they explained.

 “Cambodia had one of the highest rates of TB in the world, but some of the lowest notification rates. With money from partners and governments, they managed to go out, get people on treatment, raise the notification rate and reduce the burden of TB.”

Also speaking on the panel was Sanjay Veja, who has worked with Results UK as a volunteer campaigner for the last 25 years. As part of his advocacy role, Sanjay shared his work with Members of Parliament and local government and discussed ways to get more people involved in community activism.

He regularly trains other volunteers and brings them with him when he meets with MPs or other representatives.

“They become really inspired and motivated and can take action and you feel very empowered by the whole process. Once you engage them in it, they find their voice – it’s very powerful.”