The Philippine Coalition Against Tuberculosis (PhilCAT) was founded in 1994 amidst the realization that collaboration and partnership with the private sector was vitally needed to succeed in the country’s fight against tuberculosis, an infectious disease whose victims continue to be viewed with stigma. The major founding members were the Department of Health (DOH), leading specialty societies of chest physicians, infectious disease specialists, and pharmaceutical industry representatives.
From 12 founding members, PhilCAT has grown to 67 member organizations from the government and non-government, professional, corporate and international organizations. It is governed by an 11-member board elected at large by all member organizations. It is vice-chaired by the highest DOH official directly in charge of the National Tuberculosis Program (NTP), presently the Director of the National Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
Fight TB through Unified Action
At forefront in the promotion of Public-Private Mix in TB, PhilCAT’s achievement has earned the respect of the international health community. The Philippines has been acknowledged for the Public-Private Mix model that PhilCAT developed and adopted.
The Philippines is a recipient of a US$11.3 million from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to fund, among others, the promotion and implementation of private-public mix strategies. During the first year of the project which started in July 2003, PhilCAT installed seven PPMD units jointly with the DOH. Twenty additional PPMD units will be installed in Year 2, and 43 more on the third year, for a total of 70 PPMD units nationwide.
With support from Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and USAID, PhilCAT in collaboration with DOH developed and implemented five private-public DOTS models in various health sectors settings in Metro Manila and Cavite. Significant strides have already been made in operating these models, and there is potential that these models will significantly contribute towards increasing detection rates.
PhilCAT co-authored “Empowering the Private Sector in the Control of TB in the Philippines in a Strengthened National TB Program”, the first ever produced document in the world that outlined a countrywide strategy for the establishment of public private mix strategy in support of DOTS. Endorsed by the DOH and WHO, this document was instrumental in the awarding of a US$1.5-million grant to the Philippines by the Geneva-based Global Drug Facility for a complete course of TB medication for 130,000 TB patients over a three-year period.
PhilCAT was DOH’s major partner in the successful conduct of the first-ever National Tuberculosis Summit on March 7, 2003 at the EDSA Shangri-La Hotel in Mandaluyong City, which resulted in the ratification of the Comprehensive and Unified Policy (CUP) for Tuberculosis Control in the Philippines by 22 leaders of major government, non-government, professional and corporate organizations. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo gave strong support to this policy that unifies both the public and private sectors by issuing Executive Order No. 187 on March 21, 2003, instructing government agencies to disseminate the Comprehensive and Unified Policy and to conduct training on carrying out its provisions. She also enjoined non-government agencies to extend full cooperation to the effort.
The Philippine Tuberculosis Initiatives for Private Sector (Philippine TIPS), a USAID-funded project and partner of PhilCAT, provided logistical and technical support for the National TB Summit.
In February 2003, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) signed an agreement with PhilCAT to launch an outpatient benefits package that covers TB diagnosis and treatment. This TB package is unprecedented in the country. It makes available P4,000 per TB patient to public and private clinics certified as DOTS-ready by PhilHealth. PhilCAT assumes the job of training the referring physicians and certifying these centers.
To address the relative lack of emphasis on TB and DOTS in the education of the country’s doctors, PhilCAT has collaborated with the Association of Philippine Medical Colleges and Philippine TIPS to project a TB-DOTS syllabus for medical schools. In partnership with Philippine TIPS, PhilCAT conducted a workshop on May 29 and 30, 2003 on integrating TB-DOTS into the curriculum of medical schools attended by some 65 participants, representing 26 out of 30 medical schools.
PhilCAT also performs valuable research work for TB control in partnership with PhilCAT member groups. Among its projects were the following: (1) “Pilot Testing of the Guidelines on TB in Children at Barangay” in collaboration with the DOH Task Force on TB in Children, Center for TB in Children Philippines and World Vision; (2) “The Control of Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis in the Philippines Through Community-based DOTS-Plus Program” in collaboration with the Tropical Disease Foundation and (3) “Randomized Trial in the Use of Family DOTS Among Newly-Diagnosed Smear (+) Tuberculosis in the PTSI-FOD Clinics” in collaboration with the Philippine Tuberculosis Society and GlaxoSmithKline Foundation.