Opinion

Uniting to end TB

By Alex Metcalfe

Here at ZPB towers, we have been working with The International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union).  Our focus has been supporting their social media delivery as well as developing communications for specific TB projects in Africa and tobacco control activity across the globe.

Last week I joined The Union communications team to deliver their 49th Union World Conference on Lung Health in The Hague.

Before this experience, I hadn’t realised tuberculosis (TB) was still a thing. As my aunty messaged me: “Thought it was close to eradication?” No, aunty, how wrong we are.

TB is one of the top 10 causes of death and most deadly infectious disease worldwide, the stats are shocking:

  • 10 million new cases of TB each year
  • 7 million people die of TB every day

Even equipped with these facts, I still didn’t expect the world conference to be much bigger than a car boot sale. Wrong again.

It was huge, actually the largest Union World Conference ever, with more than 4,000 delegates, nearly 100 journalists, 904 presentations, 524 posters, 308 sessions delivered over four days and more than 40 sessions and activities in the community space.

My role was to manage The Union’s three Twitter and three Facebook accounts, the President of The Union’s Twitter account as well as write website stories from the conference. Ahead of the opening I also supported with drafting the press releases for the scientific press conferences.

It was full on but also a lot of fun. From Monday morning to Sunday evening we produced a whopping:

  • 33 news items
  • 3 press conferences
  • 197 tweets
  • 71 Facebook posts

The Union communications team was fantastic and massively committed. I don’t think many other teams would be able to deliver so much high-quality content on such a complex topic.

All of this hard work resulted in a vast amount of international press coverage. In terms of social media, we achieved:

  • 667 retweets
  • 913 likes on Twitter
  • 262 new followers on Twitter
  • 2,400 likes on Facebook
  • 562 shares on Facebook
  • 132 comments on Facebook
  • 269 new fans on Facebook

Sadly, I found out about the huge gap in child TB treatment. Paul Jensen, Policy and Strategy Director at The Union, highlighted this in one of the press conferences I attended: “Children haven’t really registered on the global health agenda. You just see a void of where the attention on children who have TB or have been exposed to TB should be.

“A million children under the age of 15 every year become sick with TB, about a quarter of a million die. 90 percent of those children who die from TB no one diagnosed, no one treated them.

“There’s no excuse for missing these kids. There’s no mystery here. This is a silent slaughter.”

The seriousness of the conference aside, my favourite moment of the week was beating press guru, Michael Kessler, and photographer/pool shark, Marcus Rose, at pool with my fellow Wirralian, Sarah Thomas.

I was absolutely exhausted when the conference came to an end, but I was very glad to have been a part of it.

The TB epidemic is something that urgently requires much more attention and funding and I hope what we achieved last week goes some way to #EndTB.