Drawing on literature from India and key contributions from social science, this paper asks and attempts to answer the question \"who is to blame for treatment failures in TB\"? Some key lessons emerge: effective tuberculosis control cannot be achieved so long as the disease is considered in isolation from the social processes that maintain it, create the conditions facilitating its spread and act as barriers to care. Insights into the economic and social burdens incurred with a diagnosis of TB are essential to understand why many patients, especially the most disadvantaged, are unable to comply with treatment regimens. TB and health care interventions need to be appropriate to the health service contexts in which they are applied, and sensitive to the competing demands, needs and priorities of peoples lives. The paper argues for the need to reorient TB control programmes towards enabling patients to obtain care. The problem of access emerges as central to peoples ability to obtain and maintain appropriate therapy. Examples and characteristics of successful non-governmental projects, from which policy makers, programmers and practitioners could learn, are outlined and contrasted with more rigid directly observed treatment approaches. We conclude that treatment failures are not patient failures, and that TB control programmes need to address the social dimensions of TB, and adhere to the principles of good TB care, with the same commitment that is devoted to ensuring patients follow treatment guidelines. We suggest a paradigm shift away from a focus on diseased patients towards enabling health in the community.
International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (1999) 10 (3) 1-7