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Message from the Executive Director

Published on


Looking back, and moving ahead

José Luis Castro, 20 December 2019

Thanks to the commitment and energy of our staff, members and partners, this has been another transformative year for The Union. Working together, we have made progress in our strategic development, as well as many significant contributions to advances in tuberculosis (TB) treatment, care and prevention, tobacco control and health policy worldwide.

Looking back over the year, we have published a ‘slide show’ of highlights of our work in 2019. This reflects well the thematic and geographic diversity of what we do, and what makes The Union so special.

For example, we stepped up our focus on TB in children with the launch of the Child and Adolescent Tuberculosis (TB) Centre of Excellence, to promote collaboration and learning through a virtual network of TB professionals and organisations across Africa. Based in Uganda, it offers technical leadership, capacity building and funding opportunities to improve child and adolescent TB research and practice.

We also launched a new project, Contributing to the Elimination of Tuberculosis in Africa (CETA), which aims to eliminate TB in Francophone Africa by 2035. The CETA project will support national TB programmes (NTPs) in eight countries with TB screening and prevention, improving healthcare delivery by better integrating it into the wider health system, and strengthening governance.

Life after TB is an emerging theme, with The Union’s working group for post-TB chronic respiratory disorders playing a key role in the first International Post-TB Symposium, held in Stellenbosch, South Africa, defining the current state of knowledge and achieving consensus on important aspects of post-TB lung diseases.

Last month I wrote about the success of the 50th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Hyderabad, and we have continued to build on this success through our developing advocacy partnerships with survivors and civil society.  We need to sustain the momentum to improve and shorten treatment programmes, and to place people with lived experience of TB at the centre of policy-making discussions. This is an area we look forward to developing further in the new year. 

Many significant advances and new investments were announced at the conference, and new resources unveiled. Among these, The Union launched Prevent Tuberculosis: Management of TB Infection a new open access online course, with funding from Sanofi, for national TB and AIDS programme staff and clinicians to support the improvement of TB preventive care.

We also published the seventh edition of the popular Management of Tuberculosis: A Guide to Essential Practice. First published in 1986, the ‘Orange Guide’ is widely used as the definitive reference for health workers worldwide, with more than 50,000 copies printed in five languages.

The Union welcomed two new Editors in Chief of the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (IJTLD). Professor Giovanni Battista Migliori and Dr Chi Chiu Leung will work closely with the research community to enhance the Journal’s impact and expand its reach.

Throughout 2019, The Union has continued to lead the way on tobacco control, especially in Asia and Latin America. The Union’s Global Implementation Programme, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, officially launched in its first two cities, Yogyakarta and Depok City, Indonesia. It is now being rolled out in cities in China, India and Pakistan. The 4th Asia Pacific Cities Alliance for Tobacco Control and NCD Prevention (APCAT) Summit provided a platform for knowledge exchange and the sharing of best practice to combat the tobacco epidemic in the region.

Moving ahead into 2020, The Union’s Centennial year, we are preparing to announce an exciting programme of events and initiatives to celebrate our history, build on current achievements and address the urgent challenges of the future. I look forward to sharing full details with you in the New Year.

Our Centennial marks the beginning of a new era for The Union. It makes us think, what is our DNA, what is the organisation known for, what are we going to contribute to global health going forward? It gives us an opportunity to engage with other partners and players that we have not reached out to in the past.

It also gives us a platform to refresh the organisation and strengthen our funding base. The Union is undertaking a strategic planning exercise for 2020-2025, and we have begun consultation with members and stakeholders about our vision and values, led by our new President Professor Guy Marks.

Above all, we want to energise and expand our membership; a growing global network of members and partners will be vital in the push to end TB by 2030, to make significant progress on tobacco control, and to reduce the harmful effects of air pollution on lung health.

I look forward to working with you all in the New Year, and I wish you a happy and healthy holiday season.