Objectives: Tuberculosis (TB) control in schools is a concern in low-income and middle-income countries with high TB burdens. TB knowledge is recognised as important for TB control in China, which has one of the highest TB prevalence in the world. Accordingly, National TB Control Guideline in China emphasised TB-health education in schools as one of the core strategies for improving TB knowledge among the population. It was important to assess the level of TB knowledge in schools following 5-year implementation of the guideline, to determine whether the information was reaching the targets. Design: A cross-sectional study. Methods and study setting: This survey assessed TB knowledge and access to TB-health information by questionnaire survey with 1486 undergraduates from two medical universities in Southwest China. Results: Overall, the students had inadequate TB knowledge. Only 24.1%, 27.2% and 34.1% of the students had knowledge of TB symptoms of cough/blood-tinged sputum, their local TB dispensaries and free TB treatment policy, respectively. Very few (14.5%) had heard about the Directly Observed Therapy Short Course (DOTS), and only about half (54%) had ever accessed TB-health education information. Exposure to health education messages was significantly associated with increased knowledge of the five core TB knowledge as follows: classic TB symptoms of cough/blood-tinged sputum (OR (95% CI) 0.5(0.4 to 0.7)), TB modes of transmission (OR (95% CI) 0.4(0.3 to 0.5)), curability of TB (OR (95% CI) 0.6(0.5 to 0.7)), location and services provided by TB local dispensaries (OR (95% CI) 0.6(0.5 to 0.8)) and the national free TB treatment policy (OR (95% CI) 0.7(0.5 to 0.8)). Conclusions: The findings pose the question of whether it is time for a rethink of the current national and global approach to TB-health education/promotion which favours promotion of awareness on World TB Days rather than regular community sensitisation efforts.
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