The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently spotlighted Thailand in its Global Tuberculosis Report 2023. The report applauds Thailand’s exceptional strides in impeding the impact of tuberculosis (TB) in the country. It is notable that amongst the 30 countries burdened with a high prevalence of TB, only Thailand shines brightly with diversified medical coverage (82 service coverage index in 2021) and negligible catastrophic health expenses (only 2% of households).
The WHO continues to laud Thailand’s decision to activate its universal health coverage strategy in 2002. This initiative guarantees health insurance coverage to all citizens, who were not previously covered through any formal sector scheme. Supported by a robust primary health care system and domestic funding, this scheme provides tangible benefits to all Thai citizens.
Dr. Niti Hetanurak, Deputy Director-General at the Department of Disease Control, elaborated on Thailand’s notable TB universal health coverage during a press briefing earlier this week. He emphasized that the initiative is targeted towards all citizens, ensuring equitable access to diagnosis, treatment, and infectious disease prevention, thereby promoting overall health security.
“Our comprehensive diagnosis protocol aids in more effective treatment planning. It includes services like chest x-rays, lab testing during the infection’s latent period, and testing for drug-resistant bacteria,” Dr. Niti stated. He added that these services are rendered free, alleviating the public’s financial strain, and contributing towards realizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target 3.8 by 2030.
SDG target 3.8 articulates the global objective of achieving universal health coverage. This involves addressing financial risks, ensuring access to essential, quality health care services, and guaranteeing citizens’ access to safe, effective, and affordable medicines and vaccines. It promotes a global health landscape where no one is left behind.
During the Union World Conference on Lung Health 2023, held in Paris, France from November 13-18, WHO’s recognition of Thailand’s effective fight against TB found a special mention. Their successful universal coverage against TB became a beacon for other high burden countries to look towards in their fight against TB and other infectious diseases.
In conclusion, other countries can take a leaf out of Thailand’s book in their fight against infectious diseases. By providing universal health coverage and supporting it with domestic funds and a solid primary health care system, the seemingly hard goal of controlling TB is achievable.