#IAmTropMed: Flipping the Microscope to Tell a New Set of Stories

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This blog post was originally published on Making Malaria History. 

Anyone working in global health will say the same thing: the people impacted by our work is the reason we do what we do. Underlying medical vocabulary, data spreadsheets, and peer-reviewed journals are millions of stories, people whose lives were saved and improved thanks to creative and dedicated minds.

Indeed, researchers and program implementers should be quick to celebrate these successes. But there is another equally important set of stories that is often overlooked: the stories of the researchers themselves.

This year at the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) Annual Meeting, we’re flipping the microscope to hear from the meeting participants, the dedicated professionals behind the scenes: Why did you decide to go into your respective fields? What gets you out of bed and into the lab/field every morning? What promising innovation are you most excited about? What do you like to do for fun?

Don’t be shy. Participation is easy:

1. Take a photo of yourself holding a sign that says “#IAmTropMed.” You can take one in advance, or take advantage of the photo booth next to the registration area at the conference.

2. Share the photo on your organizational or personal Twitter or Facebook profile using the hashtag #IAmTropMed during the week of the ASTMH Annual Meeting.

3. Include a caption that highlights the reason you are involved in this work. Example: Because malaria elimination is the only long-term goal.

4. In your post, you can also link to more information: a blog or webpage about your work, journal articles, or details on a session or symposium you are hosting at the ASTMH Annual Meeting.

@Global_Network will be tweeting and participating in next week’s ASTMH meeting. Stay tuned for tweets and stories! We encourage you to share your own using #IAmTropMed too!

Newly-Formed German NTD Network Poised to Advance NTD Advocacy

 

Logo_DNTDsOn September 22nd, the Global Network was thrilled to support a launch event for the German Network against Neglected Tropical Diseases. Stakeholders from civil society, the scientific community and the private sector from across Germany convened in Berlin to participate in a special parliamentary evening introducing the newly-formed alliance, which is dedicated to controlling and eliminating 10 neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) by 2020.

By joining with the United States and the United Kingdom — two leaders in providing funding for NTD programs — Germany has the potential to play a key role in accelerating efforts to control and eliminate NTDs.

The German Network launch event was covered by seven different German media outlets and attended by a broad group of more than 50 participants, including the German government. The Global Network’s Managing Director, Dr. Neeraj Mistry, provided the closing presentation, identifying opportunities for German partners to help fill the current NTD funding gap.

Dr. Jürgen May, professor at Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine Hamburg and spokesman for the Network, expressed his confidence in the new coalition. “The members are united by their shared desire to eliminate diseases such as schistosomiasis and African sleeping sickness, which primarily occur in tropical countries and typically thrive in impoverished settings. The Ebola epidemic in West Africa is also now showing how important it is to bolster efforts to fight poverty-related diseases. Many of us have been involved in this arena for a long time. Collaboration between non-governmental organizations, science and industry will make these initiatives even more efficient.”

After participating in the successful launch event, Neeraj Mistry left feeling confident that the newly-formed German Network is well-poised to further advocate for NTD efforts around the world.

Germany is now the second European country to form a coalition dedicated to controlling and eliminating NTDs — following the footsteps of the UK Coalition against Neglected Tropical Diseases. Established  in 2011, the UK Coalition has been hard at work raising awareness primarily among UK policy makers, urging for greater cross-sectoral integration of NTD programs with water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and education initiatives and increased funding and better coordination for existing NTD control efforts. Thanks to the efforts of the UK Coalition and others, NTDs are now seen as a key barrier to attaining the existing Millennium Development Goals and successfully alleviating poverty within the most marginalized communities.

Both the German and UK coalitions are also crucial partners in advocating for the inclusion of NTDs in the post-2015 development agenda. The impact of NTDs stretches across multiple development sectors, including WASH, nutrition, and maternal and child health. Therefore, long-term sustainable development, poverty reduction and improved health outcomes cannot be successfully achieved without simultaneously addressing NTDs. The NGO, academic and private sector representatives involved in both the German Network and UK NTD Coalition have a unique opportunity to help ensure NTDs remain on the world’s development agenda.

The Global Network congratulates the German NTD Network for its successful launch this fall, and looks forward to its continued progress in advocating for the control and elimination of NTDs. For more information about the German Networks, you may visit their website here.

Toward a Healthy Future: Working Together to End Neglected Tropical Diseases & Malnutrition

 

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Together with a wide range of experts and advocates from the neglected tropical disease (NTD), nutrition and broader development community, the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases is excited to launch a new policy brief.

Toward a Healthy Future: Working Together to End Neglected Tropical Diseases & Malnutrition – examines the relationship between NTDs and malnutrition, and the actions needed to address both of these challenges. The evidence linking intestinal worm infections and schistosomiasis underscore the importance of tackling these two problems together:

  • NTDs and malnutrition are geographically linked: all of the 34 countries carrying the highest levels of malnutrition are also endemic for NTDs.  In fact, ten of these countries make up 90 percent of the global NTD burden.
  • Poor nutrition increases susceptibility to parasitic disease infections, while NTDs, like intestinal worms and schistosomiasis, are underlying causes of stunting, wasting and micronutrient deficiencies.
  • Poor access to water, sanitation and poor hygiene practices are well-known contributing factors to the spread of NTDs

Encouraging work is being done to address these issues. A number of multilateral organizations, governments, NGOs and endemic countries are already implementing programs that deliver treatments for intestinal worms and schistosomiasis alongside other nutrition and health interventions, effectively leveraging policies and delivery strategies. The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2014, published by the Food & Agricultural Organization, revealed that the children suffering from undernutrition has fallen by 100 million over the last decade. The United to Combat NTDs: Delivering on Promises and Driving Progress report showed that in 2013, nearly 1.35 billion NTD treatments were donated and over 70 countries developed national NTD plans.

While these are important steps in the right direction, a funding gap stands in the way of ensuring that these treatments reach the people who need them. To reduce malnutrition and control and eliminate NTDs, the global health community must build upon this work and scale up deworming alongside nutrition interventions, such as Vitamin A and iron supplementation.

The Global Network’s policy brief calls for international policymakers and advocates to:

  • Recognize the impacts of NTDs and malnutrition and the clear benefits of addressing these issues in tandem.
  • Expand access to routine deworming treatments for all populations at risk, including pre-school- and school-aged children, women of childbearing age and pregnant women through existing treatments and delivery platforms.
  • Include deworming as a strategy to improve health and nutrition for mothers and children
  • Ensure sustainability by simultaneously investing in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and other social determinants of health.
  • Increase resources and link policies that facilitate joint programming and partnerships
  • Mobilize greater political and financial support for NTDs and malnutrition during international and regional fora.

We hope you’ll read the policy brief here, and contribute to the conversation on Twitter by joining our Twitter chat on Wednesday, October 22 at 2:00PM EDT using the hashtag #NTDsNutrition.

How to Ensure we “Leave No One Behind” on the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

 

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Today marks the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. This year’s theme, “Leave no one behind,” is especially important to me as an advocate for the world’s most vulnerable populations. As former director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and as a Special Envoy for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), I have called attention to those who are too often left behind: the 1.4 billion people who suffer from NTDs.

NTDs have devastating consequences for the world’s poorest people. They cause anemia and malnutrition, and can lead to blindness, school absenteeism, disfiguration and the loss of livelihoods. Ultimately, NTDs undercut a family’s earning potential, productivity and ability to escape poverty. If we as a global community wish to end poverty, we must control and eliminated NTDs.

In less than a month, the Group of 20 (G20) will gather in Brisbane, Australia to discuss ways to stimulate economic growth among the world’s vulnerable populations. During G20 Summit, world leaders are expected to discuss financial sector reforms, infrastructure and employment opportunities. However, in order to make the largest possible impact on the world’s poor, the G20 should address global health and NTDs.

The G20 should embrace the fight against NTDs and include them among the most cost effective interventions to eradicate poverty and advance its goal to create a “sustainable path for current and future generations.” NTDs undermine the G20’s collective efforts to build human capital, increase employment opportunities, reduce inequality and expand access to agricultural and nutrition initiatives. NTDs can be eliminated by 2020 and the benefits of achieving this feasible goal will be long lasting.

Evidence has shown that debilitating and blinding NTDs such as lymphatic filariasis (LF) and trachoma can significantly affect a person’s income. For example, LF can lead to a 15 percent annual loss in personal income, and trachoma can cause a total potential productivity loss of $5.3 billion annually.

By addressing NTDs, we can ensure more children remain in school, and more women remain employed and empowered. Women with LF in particular, are vulnerable to stigma, social isolation, lost jobs and diminished wages, further embedding them in poverty. And when children are infected with one or more NTD, their cognitive and learning abilities are reduced making them unable to reach their full potential.

On the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, I join the Global Network in urging the G20 to recognize NTDs as a key underlying constraint to poverty alleviation and economic growth. In addition, we are urging the G20 to support the inclusion of NTD control and elimination efforts in the final post-2015 development agenda.

In order to ensure that no one is left behind, world leaders must support global efforts to control and eliminate NTDs. Because NTDs already infect the world’s most marginalized populations, we must prioritize their health if we are to end poverty.

For more information on NTDs and the G20, read the Global Network’s report.