Bubble Tea and TB: Foodpanda Myanmar Delivers TB Messages in Innovative Link-up with Community Partners International

A Foodpanda rider wears a TB awareness shirt while collecting a delivery from a restaurant in Yangon, Myanmar, in March 2023. (CPI)

As Foodpanda riders weave through the streets of Yangon, Myanmar, they’re not just bringing noodles, bubble tea, and other tasty food and drinks to their customers. They’re also delivering important messages about diagnosing and treating tuberculosis (TB). Since World TB Day (March 24), more than 1,000 Foodpanda riders across the city have been wearing special shirts with the message, “If you’ve been coughing for two weeks or more, test for TB at your nearest clinic”, emblazoned on the back in Burmese.

The shirt and the message are part of an awareness campaign to “End TB Together” supported by Foodpanda in partnership with Community Partners International (CPI).

TB is a bacterial infection, spread through tiny droplets from the coughs and sneezes of an infected person. It is a serious disease and a very real threat to public health in Myanmar but can be cured with proper treatment. Myanmar is one of 30 countries identified by the World Health Organization {WHO) as having a high burden of TB, HIV-associated TB, and TB drug resistance. The WHO estimates that 194,000 people had TB in Myanmar in 2021, and more than 36,000 people died of the disease. And, according to the National TB Prevalence Survey (2018), Yangon Region has the highest TB burden nationally.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, TB was the leading cause of death from a single infectious agent worldwide. As the pandemic disrupted health services, TB prevention activities fell back. As a result, the number of cases identified in Myanmar and worldwide fell in 2020, not because there were fewer of them, but because health systems couldn’t sustain case-finding activities. In 2021, case notifications began to climb again to pre-pandemic levels in much of the world. But, in Myanmar, they continued to fall, from 105,380 in 2020 to 65,125 in 2021. These figures indicate that many thousands of TB cases remain undiagnosed and untreated in the Myanmar population.

Foodpanda riders attend a TB awareness session in Yangon, Myanmar, in March 2023. (CPI)

Making an estimated 18,000 journeys each day in Yangon, Foodpanda’s fleet of riders are a familiar sight on the city’s roads. The TB prevention message that the riders carry on their shirts is visible to potentially hundreds of thousands of drivers, passengers, and pedestrians each day as they ferry deliveries to customers. To reinforce the message on their shirts, the drivers also distributed TB information pamphlets to as many as 35,000 customers in the week following World TB Day. And 50,000 pamphlets have been distributed to Foodpanda’s network of vendors in Yangon to share with walk-in customers.

A Foodpanda rider receives TB awareness materials at an awareness session in Yangon, Myanmar, in March 2023. (CPI)

The shirts and pamphlets include a hotline, 0988 044 1080, that people can call between 8 am and 4 pm, Monday to Friday, to find out where they can access free TB diagnosis and treatment. The campaign will also feature media interviews, articles, and talk show appearances to further spread awareness about TB, and diagnosis and treatment options, to communities across Myanmar.

A TB awareness volunteer attaches a sticker to a taxi in Yangon, Myanmar, in March 2023. (CPI)

This link-up between Foodpanda and Community Partners International offers an innovative and powerful way to bring crucial public health messaging about TB to Yangon’s residents. By raising awareness and offering practical support, the campaign will help diagnose and treat more TB cases, and reduce the burden of TB across Myanmar.

A trishaw rider attaches an umbrella with TB awareness messages to his trishaw in Yangon, Myanmar, in March 2023. (CPI)

The USAID HIV/TB Agency, Information and Services (AIS) Activity aims to achieve HIV epidemic control by ensuring 95 percent of people living with HIV in Burma are aware of their status, 95 percent of those identified as positive are on antiretroviral treatment, and 95 percent of those on treatment are virally suppressed. It also aims to achieve a Burma free from TB by reaching every person with TB, curing those in need of treatment, and preventing the spread of disease and new infections. It is funded by PEPFAR and the Global Accelerator to End TB through USAID.