Archive for September, 2009

Fight Worms: Boost Per Capita Income

September 28th, 2009

By Josh Ruxin Founder and Director, The Access Project Assistant Professor in Public Heath, Columbia University

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), though massively widespread, can be defeated with a much more modest investment than it takes to fight pandemics like AIDS and tuberculosis. Ironically, because they are less well-known and potentially easier to fight than well-publicized scourges, they have always been shunted off to the side of the global public health agenda.

Recognizing the tremendous toll NTDs take on a country’s ability to pull itself out of poverty, and understanding the relative ease with which these scourges can be treated, a group of private, public and international organizations banded together to launch an integrated assault on NTDs. Rwanda has been one of the beneficiaries of the efforts of this Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, and in March 2009, nearly 4 million children were treated for the two most prevalent and debilitating parasitic infections, schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthes (intestinal worms), in the course of just four days.

The intervention was sorely needed: a survey carried out by my NGO, the Access Project, showed that intestinal worm infections had an average prevalence of 66% among children, and in some areas, 95%. Schistosomiasis had an overall prevalence rate of 2.7%, but prevalence among children living in close proximity to lakes exceeded 70%. These infections can devastate entire communities if left untreated, which up until recently had almost always been the case. This devastation is not dramatic and visible –- as in the examples of AIDS, TB or malaria — but it is more subtle and, arguably, even more damaging.

Read more: Fight Worms: Boost Per Capita Income

This Week in NTDs: Sept. 28, 2009

September 28th, 2009

The WHO is distributing new drugs to combat sleeping sickness in sub-Saharan Africa.

Researchers at Penn State received a National Science Foundation grant to study how environmental changes can affect Buruli ulcer.

Making a Splash at the Clinton Global Initiative

September 25th, 2009

The GN Team took on New York this week to make an exciting announcement at the Clinton Global Initiative. The Global Network, with the Inter-American Development Bank and the Pan America Health Organization, is partnering with global health leaders, philanthropic organizations, and international celebrities to mobilize $30 million to raise awareness and funding for NTD control and elimination in Latin America and the Caribbean.  Several organizations have joined this partnership including the Brazilian National Soccer Team, the Miss Universe Organization, Deworm the World, GlaxoSmithKline, and Lew Lara/ TBWA. Maureen Orth has joined as the Global Network Regional Ambassador.

Dr. Andy Baldwin and Miss USA Crystle Stewart

Dr. Andy Baldwin and Miss USA Kristen Dalton

Click here to read the press release.

Following CGIs scheduled events Wednesday, the Global Network and the IDB co-hosted a cocktail reception at the Warwick Hotel.  Beauty queens, politicos, and major international players were among over 100 attendees that turned out to celebrate this unprecedented commitment. Notable guests included IDB President Luis Moreno, Maureen Orth, James Carville, Dr. Andy Baldwin, Governor Tommy Thompson, Terry McAuliffe, Miss Brazil 2009 Larissa Costa, and Miss USA 2009 Kristen Dalton, and two former Miss Universes (click here to see photos of the event).

The crowd was incredibly enthusiastic, though some of the guests had only recently learned about the devastating impact of NTDs. Political consultant and strategist James Carville was overheard stating This [issue] could really take off. Paula Shugart, President of the Miss Universe Organization, emphasized how excited the Miss Universe Titleholders are to get their boots on the ground even if the boots have six inch heels.

Behind the Scenes with the Beauty Queens

September 24th, 2009

As a Policy Associate for the Global Network, my days are usually filled with politicians, suits, memos and briefingshardly the stuff of glitz and glamour.  So when I was tasked Wednesday with training a handful of Miss Universe Contestants on neglected tropical diseases, I took the train up to New York City with great curiosity and admitted skepticism.  Coming from the world of DC realpolitik, I had my doubts that the Misses could become articulate Global Network spokeswomen ahead of our cocktail reception less than 12 hours later.

Thankfully, the women shattered my cynicism and quickly engaged enthusiastically in learning about these diseases, their treatments, and how they could personally get involved.  Although each womans background was different, they were alike in their beauty and, more importantly, in their desire to give back to their countries and to make a difference.  My trainees included:

  • Larissa Costa, BrazilMiss Brazil 2009 (who graciously braved a language barrier AND a broken toe to headline our event)
  • Nayla Micherif, BrazilMiss Brazil 1997, Current National Director
  • Justine Pasek, PanamaMiss Universe 2002
  • Crystle Stewart, TexasMiss USA 2008
  • Amelia Vega, Dominican RepublicMiss Universe 2003
Justine Pasek, Amelia Vega, Kari Stoever (GN), Crystle Stewart, Paula Shugart (MUO), Stormi Henley, Kristen Dalton, Larissa Costa, Nayla Micherif, missing, Erin Hohlfelder.  Photograph by Evan Wilder

Justine Pasek, Amelia Vega, Kari Stoever (GN), Crystle Stewart, Paula Shugart (MUO), Stormi Henley, Kristen Dalton, Larissa Costa, Nayla Micherif, Natalia Anderle, Erin Hohlfelder (GN). Photograph by Evan Wilder

Read more: Behind the Scenes with the Beauty Queens

Three is the New Thirty

September 21st, 2009

Kari Stoever

By Kari Stoever, Managing Director, Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases

We’ll be celebrating our third birthday this week at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting (and speaking of which, stay tuned to this blog for a couple of really big birthday announcements at CGI this week). But as we celebrate our third birthday, I have to admit that sometimes it feels like we’re three going on thirty; at the risk of sounding immodest, our small, scrappy team—with the support of our founding collaborators—has done the work of an organization much older than its three years.

I have to constantly remind myself of the amazing growth and momentum that has taken place in the realm of NTDs in the last three years. While we are still a very long way from ending the neglect of these diseases, we’re finally on the radar; that’s no small feat given all that is on the world’s agenda. I can honestly say that support from global leaders is reaching a tipping point, and, remarkably, with increased investments, elimination of some of these diseases is within reach.

Sometimes we have to step back and remind ourselves how far we have come in such a short time. Just three years ago, I was sitting at my computer writing web copy for the launch of our first Global Network website, and today we are launching our ‘End the Neglect’ blog as the latest tool in our interactive second site. For the first year, we lacked the resources and human capital to manage the day to day operations of the initiative. Until February of 2009, the Global Network team consisted of no more than 4 full-time employees and a couple of committed interns. However, I’m reminded of the famous quote by Margaret Mead Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Read more: Three is the New Thirty

Community Support Key to Eliminating River Blindness in Tanzania

September 18th, 2009

Earlier this week, the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer ran a segment on Tanzanias efforts to control onchocerciasis (river blindness), by engaging community drug distributors to deliver treatments to some of the countrys most remote areas. In Tanzania, an estimated 4 million people at risk for the infection. Worldwide, more than 37 million people are infected with the disease, which causes blindness, skin lesion, eye diseases, and severe itching.

This segment features the work of the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC) and reveals how bicycles are a major part of breaking the cycle of disease for the countrys vulnerable citizens.

Deworm the World Links Health, Education Efforts

September 16th, 2009

By Michael Kremer, Gates Professor of Developing Societies, Harvard University

Over 400 million school-age children are infected with parasitic worms worldwide, which harm their health and development, and limit their access to and ability to benefit from the education system. In 2001, the World Health Organization (WHO) set the goal of treating 75% of school-age children at risk of infection by 2010. However, by the fall of 2006, only 10% of these children were receiving regular treatment.

There is a safe, simple, and cost-effective solution: school-based deworming. It has been shown to reduce absenteeism by 25%, and at a cost of less than US$0.50 per child per year. Deworming is one of the most cost-effective methods of improving school participation ever rigorously evaluated. There are more schools than clinics; there are more teachers than health workers. Schools offere a unique opportunity to deliver medicine to an institution where most children are gathering in any case. It is clear that the most effective way to reach the highest number of children is through the existing and extensive infrastructure of schools. With minimal training and support from local health services, teachers can deliver this simple intervention to large numbers of school-age children in a sustainable fashion. Read more: Deworm the World Links Health, Education Efforts

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    • The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases is a major advocacy and resource mobilization initiative of the Sabin Vaccine Institute dedicated to raising the awareness, political will, and funding necessary to control and eliminate the most common neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)--a group of disabling, disfiguring, and deadly diseases affecting more than 1.4 billion people worldwide living on less than $1.25 a day.
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