DUBAI – The Zero TB Cities Project celebrated its official launch in Dubai on Monday, Oct. 26. The initiative aims to eliminate tuberculosis at the community level in high-burden countries.

Tom Nicholson, associate in research at the Duke Center for International Development (DCID) at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, is leading the project in partnership with Harvard Medical School’s Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, the Clinton Health Access Initiative and the Municipal Corporation of Chennai, India.

The initiative utilizes partnerships between activists, researchers, NGOs and health care providers at the local level to provide a comprehensive spectrum of care for people at all stages of the disease.

“We’re trying to create a model that brings a single city’s TB cases toward zero by actively searching for cases, using the best diagnostics and treating all forms of the disease,” Nicholson said. “We will see huge drops in mortality, as we have in projects all around the world, if we give TB treatment the resources and long-term attention it deserves.”

The event coincided with the launch of the Harvard Medical School Center for Global Health Delivery in Dubai, which hosted the event, and a special series in The Lancet on moving toward elimination of tuberculosis. The series features Dr. Salmaan Keshavjee of Harvard Medical School, director of the new center and lead researcher for the Zero TB Cities Project.

“In many countries, particularly outside the western world, people have not used comprehensive control strategies for tuberculosis, so the disease has come to be viewed as insurmountable,” Keshavjee told The Lancet. “We are trying to push comprehensive strategies that we know work.”

Chennai and Lima, Peru, have already announced their participation. Other TB care delivery partnerships in talks with the project include Kisumu, Kenya; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Karachi, Pakistan; and Vladimir Oblast in Russia.

The Zero TB Cities Project is funded with support from Janssen Global, the public health arm of Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. It is strengthened by a collaboration with the Stop TB Partnership, which is housed at the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) in Geneva, Switzerland.

Tuberculosis is one of the world’s deadliest diseases, affecting a third of the world’s population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“There is no excuse for 1.7 million deaths per year from TB in the 21st century,” said Nicholson, a 2014 alumnus of Duke’s Master of International Development Policy program. “I have a hard time convincing myself to work in any other area, in terms of our potential impact on people’s lives.”

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