At the recent “Uniting to Combat NTDs: Translating the London Declaration into Action,” we had a chance to catch up with David Addiss, the director of Children Without Worms (CWW). CWW is a partnership between Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline, and the Task Force for Global Health to support the treatment and prevention of infection with soil-transmitted helminths (STH), commonly known as intestinal worms.
Global Network: What is the Task Force for Global Health and how does it address NTDs?
David Addis: The Task Force for Global Health is a non-profit organization […] that was founded […] to help bring groups together to focus on neglected [tropical] diseases. It started out with vaccinations and then it was the home for the Mectizan Donation Program. Now it houses several drug donation programs and has other public health programs that focus on global diseases. The Children Without Worms is one of those drug donation programs and we facilitate the donation of drugs for intestinal worms from two major pharmaceutical companies – Johnson & Johnson and GlaxoSmithKline.
Global Network: What are the impacts of NTDs?
DA: There’s a variety of reasons to care for […] NTDs. They have huge economic and developmental consequences. If we’re interested in health equity [and] in global security, it’s important that we address these problems.
As human beings, we care about the suffering of others. We are programmed neurologically to recognize and respond to suffering. And the suffering that is caused by neglected tropical diseases is immense. It may not be right in front of us, we may not see it every day as we live in the cities of the north and in developed countries, but we know that it’s there. To not do something about it goes against who we are as human beings.
Global Network: How do you measure the success of achieving a goal related to NTDs?
DA: Success looks a little bit different from one disease to the other since the NTDs are a group of different diseases. For some diseases such as onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis, it means global elimination, such that these diseases will be gone from the face of the earth. For other diseases it means elimination as a public health problem – where we’re bringing the levels of infection down to where there’s no disease, no significant morbidity.
For soil-transmitted helminths, […] success as we envision it now is the absence of any morbidity. So we have to bring transmission levels down to a certain level. We have to improve hygiene, sanitation, water supply, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that there won’t be some infections, but that these will be easily treated within the routine health services.
So it ranges from elimination to very, very tight control, and essentially eliminating them as a public health problem.