48th Union World Conference: Ukrainian policymaker takes on tuberculosis

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Science Speaks is covering the 48th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Guadalajara, Mexico this week.

GUADALAJARA, Mexico – Serhiy Kiral, a young Ukrainian member of parliament, describes himself as part of the new guard of Ukrainian policymakers elected after 2013.

They are policymakers who are inexperienced,  ambitious, optimistic, and open to innovation and to working with civil society he said, at a session here Thursday.

But, he said, it is not easy to respond to a public health crisis in an occupied country.

Sharing the stage with Ukrainian civil society advocate Yuliya Chorna, Kiral spoke of the challenge of focusing on tuberculosis in the face of his country’s conflict with and occupation by the Russian Federation while he highlighted the urgency of the issue – one of the top five countries in the world for drug-resistant tuberculosis cases with only a 37 percent cure rate achieved.

Lured into the tuberculosis issue through advocacy by Chorna and others and through engagement with the Global TB caucus of parliamentarians spearheaded by British Member of Parliament, Nick Herbert, Kiral provided advice about how to engage policymakers like him in the TB response.

Choose issues that have strong civil society backing with few conflicting vested interests that offer an opportunity to make real change, and “anchor the issue in an activity, study, report or progress in process,” he recommended.

Change is “all about networking and networks,” he said, as he pointed out that in Ukraine, civil society buttresses a weak state and is more independent and trustworthy than conventional public institutions.  Working with civil society and other policymakers, he said, the Ukrainian health minister had committed to the preparation of a national tuberculosis action plan in advance of next fall’s United Nations General Assembly meeting.

He is excited about his first trip to Mexico.

“I came to make change, learn, challenge, and network.” he concluded.

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