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Study shows World TB Day effective in raising awareness of tuberculosis but gaps remain

A recent study quantified the impact of World Tuberculosis (TB) Day (WTBD) using internet-based data, with results showing that WTBD raises the worldwide awareness of TB, although for some specific high-burden countries the trend is more erratic.

The study, published this month in the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (IJTLD), quantified the impact of WTBD using internet-based data over a 13-year period, both by individual year and overall as a trend. Results showed that significantly more searches were performed worldwide for the topic “tuberculosis” in the four weeks surrounding WTBD, compared to the rest of the year, with the authors concluding that WTBD raises the worldwide awareness of TB.

This trend had a more erratic pattern, however, in the seven countries with the highest incidence of TB, highlighting the need for more action to increase awareness in high-incidence countries. This may be due to the interplay of other factors in these countries, such as: poor general knowledge about TB; populations having fewer resources and less internet access; all year round educational strategies decreasing the relative impact of WTBD; decreasing concern about TB as a consequence of a decrease in the incidence of the disease; or greater access to the internet resulting in dilution of the relative frequency of TB searches.

Such analysis is a valid, cost-effective tool to assess the effectiveness of campaigns such as WTBD on digital information-seeking. It has the potential to assess the impact of global campaigns, or the tweaking of country-specific initiatives.

There are now well over 100 international days currently being observed by the United Nations (UN). The World Health Organization (WHO) says: “Global public health days offer great potential to raise awareness and understanding about health issues and mobilise support for action, from the local community to the international stage.”

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