Professor begins two-year tuberculosis research

Professor begins two-year tuberculosis research

January 31
22:48 2013

Ben Peyton / Senior Staff Writer

UNT Health Science Center health management and policy professor Thaddeus Miller recently received a $100,000 grant that will allow him to pursue a two-year research project that takes a practical stance on Tuberculosis control.

Miller was one of four recipients in December to receive the new award from the National Coordinating Center for Public Health Services and Systems Research at the University of Kentucky, which is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson foundation, said PHSSR communications director Vikki Franklin.

Tuberculosis is a bacterial disease that usually affects someone’s lungs.

Even though the number of tuberculosis cases in the United States has decreased by about 14,500 cases since 1993, University of Kentucky Health Services and Systems Research Professor Glen Mays said research should still be done on the disease.

“Thad’s research examines an important public health problem that too often flies under the radar in the U.S. because of historical successes in controlling the spread of TB,” Mays said. “Public health is often the victim of its own success, so when resources get tight and other priorities emerge, we think it is safe to cut back on disease prevention and control.”

The research Miller conducts will inform policy makers, physicians and health departments about which public health protections need to be supported to avert health and economic losses, Mays said.

Miller said trying to find what the losses of human life and healthcare costs is like someone in the dark trying to keep a bucket with holes filled with water.

“Once you flip on the light you can see where the largest holes are and start addressing them,” he said.

He went on to say that his economic analysis “flips on a light so you can see what things cost to do and what things cost when you don’t do them.”

There were 75 cases of tuberculosis in Tarrant County, 206 cases in Dallas County and 20 cases in Collin County. All were in the top 10 for Texas counties with the most TB cases.

A total of 1,325 cases of TB were reported in 2011, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Denton County was not far behind with 18 cases reported in 2011.

Miller said it is cheaper to let people get sick and then cure them, rather than taking steps to prevent the disease from infecting a person which costs more, but human life can be compromised as a result.

Someone who didn’t receive any preventional medications would be eight times more likely to die than someone who had engaged in TB prevention, Miller said.

“We’re talking about a difference between dying and living,” Miller said.

Professor and chair of health management policy Jose Pagan and Tarrant County Director of public Health Lou Brewer will mentor Miller and keep the research grounded with their backgrounds in economics and community involvement, Pagan said.

“I don’t really see the point in doing something if there’s not a clear compelling use for it,” Miller said.

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