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Free Content Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis treatment programmes insufficiently consider comorbid mental disorders

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The successful treatment of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is a global health priority and a key pillar of the World Health Organization's (WHO's) End TB strategy. There has been significant global investment in diagnostic capabilities in recent years. However, we argue that the mental distress of those with MDR-TB and their families continues to be overlooked by TB programmes. Priorities in the End TB Strategy of ‘patient-centred care' and ‘patient support' are still to be delivered in practice in many low-income settings, and in particular consideration of mental distress. Our experience of undertaking MDR-TB operational research in China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Swaziland has given us detailed insight into the challenges facing patients, their families, health professionals and wider health systems. We are increasingly concerned that psychosocial support, and particularly support focused on mental health, is being insufficiently addressed in national MDR-TB programmes. We suggest that the presence of comorbid mental disorders reduces treatment adherence. We recommend the trialling within TB programmes of brief screening tools for common mental disorders and the incorporation of principles from the WHO Mental Health Gap Action Programme programme into TB programme treatment guidance. Our work in Nepal also suggests that brief psychological counselling delivered by non-specialist counsellors may be feasible.
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Keywords: mental health; multidrug-resistant tuberculosis; patient support; treatment adherence

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Nuffield Centre for International Health and Development, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK 2: Health Research and Social Development Forum, Kathmandu, Nepal 3: Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada 4: ARK (Advancement through Research and Knowledge) Foundation, Dhaka, Bangladesh 5: Association for Social Development, Islamabad, Pakistan

Publication date: 2017-06-01

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  • The International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease publishes articles on all aspects of lung health, including public health-related issues such as training programmes, cost-benefit analysis, legislation, epidemiology, intervention studies and health systems research. The IJTLD is dedicated to the continuing education of physicians and health personnel and the dissemination of information on tuberculosis and lung health world-wide.

    Certain IJTLD articles are selected for translation into French, Spanish, Chinese or Russian. They are available on the Union website

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