Saturday, October 4, 2008

Photo Journalism of XDR TB

Renowned photo journalist James Nachtwey is building awareness and increased action against XDR TB, or extremely drug-resistant tuberculosis. XDR TB is becoming an ever more dangerous public health threat because it is relatively easy to transmit through the air and is nearly completely untreatable - it is resistant to almost all of the standard drugs used to treat TB. See James' haunting photos here. Here is another great article about XDR TB in Time Magazine titled, The Forgotten Plague.

These maps below highlight the fundamental problem in public health: inequitably distributed resources. The first shows the earth's land area distorted by a mathematical model reflecting the distribution of TB. The second uses a similar model to distort the earth's area, reflecting public health spending.

TB Prevalence:

Public Health Spending:

Based on those maps, it is no wonder that TB - a treatable disease - is most often found in Africa and South Asia. The rise of XDR TB can also be understood by these maps. Underfunded, understaffed medical systems thoughout Africa can drive drug resistance by erratic, inappropriate treatment with antibiotics. Investment in primary health infrastructure in countries throughout Africa and Asia is essential to slowing the spread of XDR TB. It will be important to invest in primary healthcare systems, not only because it is morally the right thing to do, but also because XDR TB - in a global society where people can travel anywhere in the world in a matter of hours - cannot be contained within the "Third World." A person XDR TB could hop onto a plane to NYC at any time and start a massive pandemic. If even for completely selfish reasons, XDR TB is something that we should work to combat by working to build primary health infrastructure and trying to change the inequitable paradigm reflected in those maps.

1 comment:

muebles said...

This can't work in reality, that's what I think.