Health and Healthcare Systems

Protecting employees against tuberculosis is a shot in the arm for sustainable business. Here's why

A man waits to be tested for tuberculosis at a mobile clinic in Gugulethu township near Cape Town, South Africa.

A man waits to be tested for tuberculosis at a mobile clinic in Gugulethu township near Cape Town, South Africa. Image: Reuters/Mike Hutchings

Richard C Adkerson
Chair of the Board and CEO, Freeport McMoRan
René Nijhof
Chairman, Kempinski S.A
Makoto Inoue
President and Representative Director, Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.
Benoît de la Fouchardiere
Group General Manager, Perenco
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Global Health

This article is part of: Centre for Health and Healthcare
  • Tuberculosis continues to have a severe impact on communities around the world.
  • It is primarily found in large, industrialized, middle-income countries.
  • The Ending Workplace TB campaign provides examples of best practice in protecting employees.

This Sunday marks World TB Day when the global community recognizes the impact that tuberculosis (TB) continues to have across the world. The most recent data from the World Health Organization found that TB was responsible for the deaths of more than 1.5 million people in 2023 – more than any other infectious disease.

It is predominantly found in large, industrialized, middle-income countries like India, Indonesia and the Philippines. Primarily affecting people of working age, the economic and social impact of TB is substantial. TB is heavily stigmatized and often results in longer-term health challenges. The costs to employers are considerable, including productivity, absenteeism and healthcare expenses. Moreover, workplaces can be hotspots for TB transmission as the disease is spread through the air.

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As senior executives, we've learned that the health of our employees is the cornerstone of our companies’ success. Properly addressing health in the workplace goes far beyond basic compliance with health and safety regulations. It’s about creating a culture that prioritizes the physical and mental health of every team member, understanding that a healthy workforce is more productive, engaged and innovative. By investing in our employees' health, we're investing in the very heart of our business.

Our companies come from different sectors, are headquartered on different continents, and working in different business environments. One thing we have in common, however, is a shared commitment to tackling tuberculosis (TB) in our workplaces, supply chains and communities through our membership of the Ending Workplace TB (EWTB) campaign.

Examples of excellence in TB care and prevention:

Freeport-McMoRan/PT Freeport Indonesia

FMI operates the largest mining site in Indonesia on the island of Papua. Rates of TB in the local community are extremely high. In partnership with InternationalSoS, FMI supports the health system at every level, providing free TB care and prevention services, from regular screening through to comprehensive care, to its employees and the surrounding communities.

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Kempinski Hotels

From 2013 to 2021, employees in their chain of South Asian hotels were offered the opportunity to train as peer educators, learning about key health issues such as TB and passing that knowledge on to colleagues, families and the communities around our hotels. Through community-based prevention activities organized with these peer educators, there has been a dramatic increase in TB screening in the communities where Kempinkski hires.

Otsuka Pharmaceutical

The company’s affiliates in Indonesia have collaborated with over 30 other companies to launch one of the world’s biggest coordinated, corporate screening programmes for TB. To date, it has helped to screen nearly 70,000 people, diagnosing those who might otherwise not have gotten treatment in a timely manner, and connecting them to local health services to ensure they get the best possible care. The programme also provides nutritional support to help the patients recover easier.

Perenco

At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Perenco invested in state-of-the-art technology for its sites in West and Central Africa, ensuring that all employees were regularly screened for COVID. Since then, it has adapted its diagnostic capabilities to focus on screening employees for TB, and partnered with the local national TB programmes to expand access to state-of-the-art diagnostics in the communities in which the company works.

Sibanye-Stillwater

South Africa is one of the high TB and HIV burden countries. People with HIV are significantly more likely to fall ill with and die from TB than people who are HIV-negative. Through dedicated HIV-TB programming, Sibanye-Stillwater has reduced rates of TB in its mine sites to below the national average in South Africa and is constantly innovating to get to zero TB.

Addressing TB demonstrates how the private sector can support global disease prevention efforts in line with recent targets outlined by the United Nations General Assembly. Investing in TB prevention and care enhances workforce health, boosts productivity and is core to all our companies’ approaches to sustainability.

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What is the World Economic Forum doing to improve healthcare systems?

We urge all companies with operations or suppliers in any of the World Health Organization’s high TB burden countries to support Ending Workplace TB and ensure that every worker, everywhere, is safe from the threat of the disease.

The authors are executives of the four of the five companies awarded Ending Workplace TB’s “Exemplar Award”. For more information, visit EWTB.org

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