Achieving universal social protection for people with tuberculosis

As we mark World TB Day 2024, we take this opportunity to reflect on the 2023 UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting (HLM) on the fight against tuberculosis—a milestone in the commitment towards a more coordinated, comprehensive approach to end tuberculosis globally. The UN HLM declaration on the fight against tuberculosis includes a specific pledge that all people with tuberculosis should receive a social benefits package to mitigate financial hardship. However, it is not known how this specific pledge will be realised and through which concrete actions. The use of the term financial hardship instead of WHO's key End TB Strategy indicator of catastrophic costs might prove challenging for robust evaluation of both the socioeconomic impact of tuberculosis and the effectiveness of socioeconomic support strategies to mitigate this impact. Moreover, in contrast to the financial pledges made for biomedical interventions, there was an absence of explicit investment in social protection. Such investments are imperative to facilitate successful expansion of social protection to meet the needs of people with tuberculosis and their households. Successful expansion of social protection is also dependent on political commitment and protected budgets from relevant stakeholders, including across government ministries. These strategies will help to ensure that the commitments on social protection made in the UN HLM declaration are turned into tangible actions with measurable effects.