06/14/2013 12:46 EDT | Updated 08/14/2013 05:12 EDT

Saskatchewan hopes new strategy will lower tuberculosis rate by 25 per cent

SASKATOON - The Saskatchewan government has announced a plan aimed at reducing the province's high tuberculosis rate by 25 per cent over five years.

The government is putting $500,000 towards a strategy that focuses on prevention, education and monitoring.

Health Minister Dustin Duncan says it's important to work closely with health and community partners to address the root causes of tuberculosis.

The TB rate in Saskatchewan is 7.5 cases per 100,000 people — higher than the national average of 4.7 per 100,000.

Most of the cases in Saskatchewan — 54 per cent — are in the north, which has under four per cent of the population.

The money is to be used to boost outreach programs in northern Saskatchewan and some will be directed to the provincial TB program.

"We have had some success in decreasing overall TB rates, but this new strategy will support enhanced services and programming in areas in which we haven't seen progress," said Dr. James Irvine, medical health officer for the province's three northern health regions.

A report on the strategy noted that tuberculosis is generally a disease of poverty.

The report said high rates of TB "strongly correlate with poor socio-economic conditions, poor quality housing and overcrowding, and living in an isolated community."

In the north, approximately one in four families is deemed to be low income, a rate almost 2.5 times higher than the province as a whole.