Ending Tuberculosis is Good for Business - New Initiative Launched to End Tuberculosis in the Workplace

22 January 2020

At the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting, a multi-sectoral group of partners today launched a new initiative – called Ending Workplace Tuberculosis – aimed at engaging major businesses in the fight against tuberculosis. Initiated by the World Economic Forum; Johnson & Johnson; Royal Philips; Fullerton Health; the Confederation of Indian Industry; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; and the Stop TB Partnership, this initiative will leverage the untapped potential of businesses in countries disproportionately impacted by TB to roll out awareness, detection and treatment programs, to reach millions of workers, their families and communities.

TB is the world’s deadliest infectious disease – killing 1.5 million people in 2018, more than HIV/AIDS and malaria deaths combined.  Of the 10 million new cases of TB, only 7 million were diagnosed, meaning that 3 million people with TB each year go unaccounted for. Many of these “missing millions” are in their most productive years and could potentially be reached through workplace and supply chain programs.

“In high-burden areas, TB endangers the livelihoods of communities by reducing incomes and market sizes,” says Arnaud Bernaert, Head of Shaping the Future of Health and Health Care at the World Economic Forum. “Since employees spend the majority of their waking hours at work, the workplace is a logical place to tackle TB.”

In addition to its devastating human impact, TB costs the global economy $12 billion annually.  Work absences necessitated by treatment and poor health make a large contribution to these costs. If efforts to fight TB continue at the same rate, TB is projected to cost the global economy $983 billion over 15 years.

“Businesses – particularly those with commercial, distribution and manufacturing operations in high TB-burden countries – can make a huge impact by fighting the effects of TB on their workforces and supply chains, complementing the efforts of local governments,” says Lynn Lau, Executive Director at Fullerton Health Foundation. “In collaboration with our partners, this campaign is committing to help catalyze that.”

The Ending Workplace TB initiative was launched at an event at the WEF Annual Meeting in Davos where leaders came together to speak about why it makes good business to end tuberculosis.  Dr. Luiz Henrique Mandetta, Minister of Health of Brazil and Chair of the Stop TB Partnership Board, delivered a keynote address in which he spoke about the need for ambitious and inclusive leadership in the fight against TB – and the important role that public-private partnerships must play to end the TB epidemic.

“New, bold and creative steps are required across sectors to disrupt the trajectory of this disease,” says Adrian Thomas, MD, Vice President, Global Public Health at Johnson & Johnson and Private Sector Board Member of the STOP TB Partnership. “Not only can businesses improve the health, safety and well-being of their workforces and supply chains by raising TB awareness and increasing access to TB prevention, screening, diagnosis, treatment and care – they can also improve productivity and reduce costs related to health care, staff turnover and absenteeism.”

“With this campaign we can make a big difference,” says Dr. Lucica Ditiu, Executive Director of the Stop TB Partnership. “The business sector already has programs for screening and testing of workers for different diseases; and it is very feasible to include TB in these programs. This campaign can show how the private sector can engage more fully in reaching the Sustainable Development Goals, specifically toward ending TB, while protecting and taking care of their own workforces and supply chains.”

“Ending TB requires a cross-sector and cross-industry effort”, said Peter Sands, Executive Director of the Global Fund. “Business can take the lead to provide the right diagnostic and treatment services to their staff and encourage their suppliers to do the same.  Doing this will not only support people and their families but reduce the negative economic impact of the disease.” 

A Platform for Action Against Workplace TB

The Ending Workplace TB initiative will provide a platform for action by:

  • Securing commitments to tackle TB as a priority from multinational companies with presence in high TB-burden areas and in high TB-risk industries, through partner networks,
  • Ensuring access to technical support on the ground to facilitate the roll-out of TB awareness, prevention, detection, and/or treatment programs for workforces, and
  • Conducting advocacy to drive change in the codes of conduct for suppliers, as part of a broader dialogue on doing responsible business. The aim is to enable both access to health services and job protection for people with TB.

These efforts will all be conducted in close coordination with local governments and will aim to build capacity in public-sector TB programs. The campaign also provides an opportunity to catalyze the implementation of new interventions, such as innovative diagnostics, and connect more people to TB care and treatment.

Initial contributions to this initiative from founding partners Johnson & Johnson, Fullerton Health and The Confederation of Indian Industry include:

Johnson & Johnson Fighting TB Through its Supply Chain

Johnson & Johnson is committing to leverage its internal resources to help suppliers across sectors – from manufacturing to research and development to logistics – conduct TB awareness raising initiatives, as well as voluntary screening and referral to care.

These efforts are part of Johnson & Johnson’s comprehensive 10-year initiative in support of global efforts to end TB, with a focus on improving the detection of undiagnosed cases of TB, broadening access to treatment for drug-resistant TB, and accelerating R&D to discover next-generation TB treatments.

Fullerton Health Launching Women Empowerment in the Workplace (WOW-TB)

With funding from the Stop TB Partnership’s TB REACH program, Fullerton Health and KNCV will roll out a workplace TB screening program with 150,000 workers across 250 factories in Indonesia this year.  Workers who are in highly dense work locations and who lack awareness of TB and accessing TB-related services are particularly vulnerable.

This project aims to create TB-free working conditions by empowering employers and workers to help themselves by (1) raising employee awareness of TB through education, (2) delivering mobile TB screening, (3) encouraging employers to prioritize workplace health and wellness and (4) building onsite capability and capacity through the provision of TB services linked to Indonesia’s National TB Program.

Confederation of Indian Industry Launching Drive for a TB-Free Workplace

The Confederation of Indian Industry in conjunction with the Central TB Division (CTD), Government of India has developed a TB-Free Workplace Campaign that will catalyze private sector engagement in India in the fight against TB.

This campaign will engage with multiple stakeholders and is supported by the Global Fund with the final objective of complementing the national goal for a TB-Free India by 2025.

USAID Galvanizing Corporations to End TB with Corporate TB Pledge

In April 2019, U.S. Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster launched USAID’s “TB Pledge: Workplace and Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative", in partnership with India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Indian and American Business Associations. The Pledge has galvanized over 60 companies, who have committed resources to spread TB awareness, train healthcare providers, strengthen diagnostic facilities, promote active case finding, support results-based TB programs and increase access to TB treatment for employees and communities. Based on four Pledge commitment levels, it enables corporations to design TB programs based on their resources and local contexts. Activities by TB Pledge companies reach over 100,000 people per month.