Three Approaches to Reduce Tuberculosis among Migrant Workers

     "Tuberculosis" (TB), an infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, can affect any organ in the body, but it primarily manifests in the lungs (80%), known as pulmonary tuberculosis. It is highly contagious and can spread easily through respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing by an infected individual.

     "Tuberculosis" remains a significant public health issue in Thailand, with over 10,000 deaths per year. Although TB can be completely cured with medication, the main obstacle to eradication in Thailand lies in the issue of TB among migrant workers. It is estimated that there are about 4.5 million migrant workers, mainly from neighboring countries with higher TB rates. Increased mobility due to economic cooperation, changes in living and working conditions, and language and cultural barriers make comprehensive TB screening challenging. The cure rate is low, and the rate of medication non-compliance is higher than among Thais, impacting TB care and prevention in Thai citizens.

     The Ministry of Public Health launched the project "Borderless TB and Borderless Labor: Socio-cultural Dimensions of TB in the Context of ASEAN Economic Community Development and Thailand's Health Security." This research aims to address problems and develop proposals for TB control in migrant workers. The research was conducted in Mae Sot district, Tak province, and Samut Sakhon province. The findings are as follows:

  1. Personal factors, such as language and cultural differences, lack of disease knowledge, mobility, lack of quality life care, and suitable welfare at work, and legal status problems, hinder TB screening, continuous treatment, and infection prevention.
  2. State officials, employers, and labor brokers lack knowledge and understanding of TB, leading to inadequate self-protection, neglect of screening and treatment processes, and lack of care for workers at risk or infected with TB.
  3. Providing free TB treatment through the Thai public health service system, with continuous follow-up from civil society, has encouraged migrant workers with TB to cooperate in ongoing treatment until cured.

Based on the research results, the recommendations are as follows:

  1. All sectors related to migrant workers should be integrated to develop a comprehensive TB care and prevention system for all migrant worker groups, ensuring continuous screening and treatment.
  2. Collaboration with civil society organizations, international organizations, and The Global Fund should be increased to extend disease screening and provide appropriate TB treatment to all migrant workers free of charge, respecting human rights principles.
  3. Collaboration with state agencies and international organizations should be increased to develop cooperative strategies with neighboring countries for TB control in migrant workers, which is a health security and economic issue of international concern.

Data updated on March 24, 2023
Source: The Public Relations Division, Office of the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Public Health, 88/20, Moo 4, Talat Khwan Sub-district, Mueang District, Nonthaburi 11000 
Tel. +66 2590 1000


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