The Georgia Family Medicine Association (GFMA) works on strengthening the quality of primary care services in the country for more than 10 years and since 2016 acts as a civil society partner within the TB-REP project. Establishment of close partnership with the community of TB patients is one of organization’s priorities. Community involvement in the process of policy and program decision making on the most effective models of TB care is a key for improving access to out-patient treatment, including for the most vulnerable populations.
GFMA joined forces with the Georgia Patients’ Union, a young entity established by people with experience of TB and their family members. Working together, they managed to gather representatives from governmental sector and civil society to discuss key expectations and needs of TB patients. A broad dialog with former patients was a starting point for including a peer-to-peer approach to the National TB Program. National Center for Disease Control and Public Health supported idea of engaging community to implement the peer-to-peer approach, allocating funds from the Global Fund grant for its implementation. As a result, in July, 2017 a program on treatment adherence with community participation has started; in this program, former patients together with social workers and psychologists provided counseling on out-patient care. The peer-to-peer approach is especially important for hard to reach groups; due to the program presented above, by October, 2017 over 100 patients with MDR-TB received counseling.
In the coming period, the GFMA will continue to support the Georgia Patients’ Union and other representatives of the civil society who recently united under the umbrella of the Georgia TB Coalition. Within TB-REP project, several consultations are planned for December and January, 2018 to review implementation of the treatment adherence program in which communities were involved together with the Georgia Patients’ Union and other implementing partners of the project. In addition, the best performing out-patient clinic will be designated and receive the award from the Georgia Patients’ Union for providing patient-centred TB care. The aim of this event is to stimulate efforts in providing high quality TB services in the patient friendly environment.
Cooperation of GFMA with coalitions of patients is mutually beneficial. Members of the Georgia Patients’ Union apply GFMA best practices in out-patient treatment and acquire advocacy skills. At the same time, GFMA facilitate exchange of experience and patients’ opinions related to organization and provision TB care; as a result, a sustainable advocacy strategy was developed to promote out-patient and people-centred model of TB care.