By Lori Lyn Lirio
SAIPAN has remarkable improvements in combating tuberculosis cases, according to Centers for Disease and Control Prevention or CDC Medical Officer for the Pacific Region Dr. Richard Brostrom.
Back in 1990s, Brostrom noted that Saipan had been seeing about 180 tuberculosis cases per year with the contract workers.
“It slowly improved every year.”
He said the partnership between private clinicians, businesses and public health department was instrumental to the success as Saipan is currently seeing 30 to 40 cases of TB every year.
“TB demands private practitioner, hospital, clinician and public health program to work closely together. That has been a great success here on Saipan, a model for the rest of the Pacific for working between the community and the government to tackle difficult problem,” Brostrom added.
Before his stint at the CDC, Brostrom had been the TB physician for the CNMI in 2002 to 2010. He is delegated by the CDC to oversee and assess with medical care for TB patients across the Pacific Region, where they are seeing about 500 to 600 cases per year.
Brostrom was one of the presenters at the three-day Pacific Islands Tuberculosis Controllers Association or PITCA conference being held at the Fiesta Resort & Spa.
Compared to the U.S. mainland, CHCC-Public Health Medical Director Dr. Phuong Luu said tuberculosis on Saipan is 17 times higher and nine times higher than Honolulu.
“We are in the same par with Guam and we are much better in terms of controlling the disease in other Pacific islands. What does it mean? It means we have a lot of work to do to educate people,” she said.
She said tuberculosis in the CNMI is still a permanent issue.
“Our calculated rate right now is 70 cases per 100,000. We say per 100,000 because that is the standardized way to communicate the cases. We don’t want to say we have only few cases compared to Palau because their population is different,” Luu said.
According to Luu, this is the first time the CNMI has hosted the PITCA conference.
“We are discussing through data – how are we doing and how well we are doing in terms of detection and control of tuberculosis.”
The participants, Luu said, are world-renowned experts.
“We have people from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Southeast National Tuberculosis Center represented by Michael Lauzardo – director for SNTC.”
There were also presentations from Rutgers Global Tuberculosis Institute in New Jersey represented by Lee Riechman, who is world-renowned tuberculosis expert, World Health Organization and Australian Respiratory Council and from U.S. Pacific islands partners.
“The intention of this tuberculosis conference is to meet and discuss the burden of tuberculosis disease throughout our islands. Unfortunately, in the US affiliated Pacific islands, it is really high burden tuberculosis,” she said.
Brostrom said the challenge that they see in combating the disease in different jurisdiction have to do with funding an organization, crowded living conditions, very high rate of diabetes that is not well controlled.
“TB remains the number one infectious disease killer in the world; to have island neighbors that have very high rate is not good for the region. That is why we have to come together every year to share our best practices and try to help each other’s islands improved TB care in their own unique way,” Brostrom added.