Sick City: Tuberculosis

5 October 2010

 TB rate per 100,000 population, by PCT of residence, 2009
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TB rate per 100,000 population, by Primary care Trust of residence, 2009. Click to enlarge.

On Thursday 7 October, Wellcome Collection presents Sick City, a balloon debate in which the audience decide public health priorities for London. Four speakers each propose a problem which they think demands our resources and attention. This week on the Wellcome Collection blog, we present a brief introduction to each speaker’s priority. Join the debate using the comments below, or come to the event on Thursday to help make the decision.

Professor Ajit Lalvani will make the case for tuberculosis as London’s most urgent health challenge.

The UK has the highest rates of TB in western Europe and is the only European country in which rates are increasing.

The problem is particularly urgent for London, now known as Europe’s TB capital. With only 12% of the UK’s population, it carries almost half the burden in TB cases. Some areas of London have rates as high as parts of Africa and India and as an airborne infection TB respects no boundaries.

With TB caseloads at their highest since the 1980s, and mobile treatment services possibly under threat, now is not the time to turn our back on a disease that disproportionately affects the poorest and most vulnerable in society, but to meet the challenge head on.

Ajit Lalvani is Chair of Infectious Diseases, Co-Chairman of the Section of Respiratory Infection of the National Heart and Lung Institute and Honorary Consultant Physician at Imperial College London and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, St Mary’s Campus. He is a Wellcome Trust Senior Clinical Research Fellow and NIHR Senior Investigator. Since his recruitment from Oxford to Imperial College London in 2007, he founded and directs the Tuberculosis Research Unit, a world-leading multi-disciplinary research group that investigates a broad spectrum of fundamental questions in tuberculosis from immunology and microbiology to epidemiology, public health and policy.