Panama City, October 25. The Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Central America Office, and the University Research Company LLC, launched the Project Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes-Tuberculosis (ECHO-TB) today.
ECHO-TB provides front-line clinicians the knowledge and support needed to manage patients with tuberculosis in rural and underserved areas. This virtual training model, developed by the University of New Mexico, offers continuous medical education to healthcare workers and improved access to specialty treatment in remote locations. The project, funded by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), will begin at a central site (hub) in the Metropolitan Health Region of Panama City, and in three satellite sites (spokes): the National TB Program, 24 de Diciembre-Chase Kiwanis Health Center, and the Regional Health District of Colon. The project will develop additional spokes in other prioritized health areas of the country as needed. In the first year, an estimated 200 healthcare workers from prioritized health areas will access the system via laptops, cell phones, or tablets to connect with specialists at the hub and spokes. Within five years, the program is expected to reach an additional 1,800 physicians, nurses, and specialists from 840 health centers in five years.
During the launch event, U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Roxanne Cabral noted “collaboration, initiative, and commitment among our countries are key to achieving positive healthcare outcomes.” According to the World Health Organization’s TB Global Report, Panama has the highest number of patients with TB/HIV co-infection in Central America and the lowest number of people living with HIV on preventative tuberculosis treatment. In addition, the increase in tuberculosis and multi-drug resistance worldwide poses a health risk for all Panamanians. Thus, the U.S government prioritizes collaboration with Panama in prevention and control. In addition to PEPFAR’s $2 million in funding in Panama, more than 25 Peace Corps volunteers train people in indigenous communities on HIV/AIDS prevention, and the Office of Defense Cooperation will deliver 100 HIV testing kits to the Ministry of Health in order to treat 1,000 patients.
Vice Minister of Health Eric Ulloa chaired the event, which was also attended by the Minister of Health Director General Felicia Tulloch, CDC Central America TB/HIV Regional Advisor, Doctor Diana Forno, University Research Company Project Director Doctor Erika Stolz de Sobalvarro, and Project ECHO – University of New Mexico Coordinators Crystal Morales and Doctor Elizabeth Clewett.
Learn more about ECHO-TB.