While many South Africans are celebrating Human Rights Day today, later this week is World TB Day on 24th March, bringing into sharper focus a disease that impacts a high percentage of the country and the continent, along with placing them at higher risk of succumbing to COVID-19 if infected.
With that in mind, the National Department of Health (NDoH) recently launched a new TB Health Check solution, akin to the COVID-19 one it did last year.
The WhatsApp and USSD-based system was launched by Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, last month, along with some concerning statistics regarding tuberculosis in the country. South Africa’s first TB Prevalence Survey, also revealed in February, estimated that there were 390 000 people with TB nationally, with 40 percent of these individuals either not diagnosed or treated.
“Previously, we focused on symptomatic patients and those living with HIV. We now need to encourage everyone to screen and test for TB to achieve elimination,” noted Mkhize regarding the disease.
As such, the TB HealthCheck solution is expected to play an important role in the NDoH’s mission to get South Africa TB-free. Currently TB HealthCheck is available in English, but more languages will be added over time to ensure that language is not a barrier to effective use of this intervention, according to one of the solution’s stakeholders, Praekelt.org.
“We are thrilled that TB HealthCheck has now been launched as it provides an effective digital risk assessment tool that allows for early detection and management of TB patients,” says Rogers. “Individuals can do the self-assessment on their phones, in a private space, and be guided to the next steps should these be indicated,” adds Praekelt.org MD, Debbie Rogers.
As mentioned, there are two ways to access the self-screening solution:
South Africans can access the service immediately by saving Contact NDOH number +27 60 123456 to their contacts and then messaging the word “TB” to do their TB HealthCheck today.
TB HealthCheck is accessible via USSD by dialling *134*832*5#.