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Message from the Executive Director

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“Our Centennial marks the beginning of a new era for The Union.”

José Luis Castro, 15 January 2020

2020 marks the beginning of The Union’s Centennial year, and while this is an opportunity to celebrate our historic achievements, it also marks the beginning of a new chapter for The Union.

Our founders were inspired by an urgent mission. On 20 October 1920, public health pioneers from 31 nations gathered in Paris to establish the International Union Against Tuberculosis, an organisation determined to combat a TB epidemic that was even more deadly and widespread than it is today. They succeeded in developing the BCG vaccine, the DOTS strategy, the first TB treatments and other public health practices that have saved millions of lives.

The Union was established to foster knowledge sharing across all those working to find solutions to the world’s most pressing global health challenges, and it has since grown and developed as an inclusive community embracing diverse disciplines and stakeholder groups. Our members are organisations and individuals from all parts of the world. We are made up of governments, charities, professional groups, patient groups and civil society organisations. We bring together doctors, nurses, health workers, service managers, volunteers and advocates.

In recent years, The Union has expanded its role into tobacco control and lung health beyond TB, along with developing training programmes, operational and implementation research, and practical innovations that have helped achieve huge advancements. Our role in promoting and undertaking research, building capacity, publishing journals, providing technical assistance and expert consultations, developing and disseminating practical guidelines, and advocating for evidence-based policy is more important than ever.

The challenge is urgent. If we are to succeed in ending TB by 2030, as governments committed to doing at the United Nations High-Level Meeting on TB in 2018, there is no time to lose. The challenge is also profound with evolving threats to lung health including tobacco, air pollution, new viral strains and resistance to antibiotics – issues that affect people everywhere and at all stages of life.

Our Centennial is a moment to celebrate the past century of leadership in lung health while looking forward to those ever-approaching deadlines. As the public health community continues to struggle to put an end to TB, to protect the world’s population from the harms of tobacco use, and reduce the burden of lung disease, we must continue to innovate in the search for new strategies. We have been fighting for 100 years – it’s time we confront these challenges by stopping them before they begin.

The last 100 years have brought significant progress in the fight against TB, from a vaccine, diagnostic tools and new drugs with which to treat the disease, yet the number of people falling ill each year continues to rise and the death toll is not falling fast enough.

Similarly, tobacco use is a leading cause of preventable disease and the tobacco industry continues to target young people and non-smokers with products intended to addict the next generation of users.

As The Union moves into its next century, we must shift our focus to preventing disease and avoiding the hardship caused as a result. By leveraging The Union’s global network of experts dedicated to ending the burden of lung disease, The Union will use its Centennial to kick start a movement calling to Advance Prevention worldwide. For this, I am counting on all of you to join us in spreading our message.

Let us fulfil once and for all the mission set forth by our founding members: to form a truly global and representative Union united under a common goal: preventing the next century of lung disease.

Interested in supporting The Union in advancing prevention? Sign up here to get involved.