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A reflection on 2023

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Prof Guy Marks at the Union World Conference on Lung Health 2023

As 2023 comes to an end, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the dedication, hard work and achievements of The Union.

Members, staff and partners have all played a vital role in maintaining progress towards The Union’s vision – a healthier world for all, free of tuberculosis and lung disease. I am truly grateful to you all for your commitment and resilience during this tough period.

Despite these difficulties, I hope you will all agree that we have achieved great things in 2023 across the fields of tuberculosis (TB), lung health and tobacco control globally. I look forward to building on this momentum in 2024 and beyond.

Commitment must lead to action

In 2023, we saw many commitments made and renewed by world leaders, but without meaningful actions we will inevitably continue to miss our targets to end TB. We need innovation and some changes in direction to focus on the strategies that will actually end TB in high-burden settings. Working together, through The Union, we can be the catalyst for such change, by prioritising science and evidence-based policy in our mission to end TB and lung disease.

New Union leadership

We appointed a new Board of Directors. All Directors are now directly elected from the membership by the membership.

We are working to improve the organisation’s governance and procedures. The new Board encompasses diversity in terms of expertise, experience and more reflectively representing the lung health community.

We also elected a new Community Advisory Panel (UCAP). UCAP are a voluntary group of engaged members, who advise The Union on how best to address the needs of affected communities and civil society through the organisation’s activities. They also lead the coordination of Community Connect at the Union World Conference on Lung Health.

Back in person – #UnionConf2023

For the first time since 2019, we delivered the Union World Conference on Lung Health in person in Paris. It was a real success, with:

  • 3,650 delegates attending from over 155 countries – 49% from low- to upper middle-income countries
  • 2,424 abstracts submitted – 977 were accepted for presentation
  • 796 media stories and counting

Having delivered the Conference virtually for three years, we underestimated the sheer level of enthusiasm we have witnessed. This is testament to the incredible content and The Union’s ability to bring this community together each year.

Sharing our expertise and knowledge

As the leading scientific organisation within the lung health world, The Union has always played a key role in the dissemination and implementation of the latest research findings and information.

And 2023 was no exception, with:

TB research and control

In 2023, The Union continued to exemplify our ability to lead ground-breaking research studies and TB control projects.

Our Centre of Operational Research led a study that found that it is possible and valuable to assess people with TB for symptoms, comorbidities, risk factors and disability at the start and end of TB treatment in China. While also seeking to address the challenges of implementing metrics for TB household contact tracing in India, Pakistan and Kenya.

Research, sponsored by The Union, found that people in prison are nine times more at risk of developing tuberculosis than the general population globally. This was the first-time ever researchers have estimated the rate of TB in incarcerated persons, and received international media attention.

Union led research found that it is feasible to incorporate contact investigation within national TB programmes in African countries.

In India, The Union, through the USAID India supported iDEFEAT TB Project and Corporate TB Pledge, began providing technical assistance to implement the Amrita SeRVe (Self-Reliant Villages) programme in 115 villages selected. The programme is specifically focusing on health, education, water and sanitization, agriculture, eco-friendly infrastructure, income generation and self-empowerment.

Real commitment to smoke-free

Our Tobacco Control Department delivered on its mission to eliminate tobacco use. Particular highlights were: supporting the Bangladesh Prime Mister and mayors to commit to achieving a tobacco-free county by 2040, working with the Airlangga University to become the first tobacco-free university in Indonesia and empowering roughly 2,500 tobacco farmers to grow sustainable, nutritious crops.

Dedication to our vision

Once again, I would like to thank all our staff, members and partners for your tireless dedication to our vision, mission and values in 2023. Especially those working in unimaginably challenging situations, like our colleagues in Myanmar. You are a great inspiration to us all.

I’m exciting by what 2024 has in store for The Union.