For the first time ever, the World Health Organization (WHO) has published a report on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) called, “Working to overcome the global impact of neglected tropical diseases,” released this morning in Geneva, Switzerland. The report demonstrates that control and elimination efforts are producing results—and that achievements are being recognized.
One of the highlights of the report is, “the overall message is overwhelmingly positive. It is entirely possible to control neglected tropical diseases. Aiming at their complete control and even elimination is fully justified.”
The report focuses on 17 NTDs, most of which have been around for centuries and have been eradicated from developed countries (like the U.S.):
4. Buruli Ulcer
5. Endemic treponematoses (including yaws)
7. Chagas Disease (American trypanosomiasis)
8. Human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness)
13. Foodborne trematode infections
14. Lyphmatic filariasis
16. Soil-transmitted helminthiases (intestinal parasitic worms)
The seventeen diseases mentioned above are spread in a number of ways. Some are parasitic diseases (spread by hosts such as dogs, fish, mosquitoes, black flies, snails, etc.) and others, like drancunculiasis are transmitted through water.
The WHO recommends in its summary five public health strategies for the prevention and control of neglected tropical diseases:
1. Expansion of preventive chemotherapy
2. Intensified case-detection and case management
3. Improved vector control
4. Appropriate veterinary public health measure
5. Provision of safe water, sanitation and hygiene
The report also discusses the work that has been done to overcome neglected tropical disease, the challenges for the future, common features of NTDs, new strategies for approaching NTDs and how this will contribute to strengthening health care systems.
So what does this report mean for the future of NTDs in our global society? We have a growing responsibility to advocate for a cause that has long needed a voice. This report gives us the quantative information and evidence about the current situation, but also gives us the strategies for sustainable control and elimination. Some other interesting facts from the report:
“On the basis of the estimated rate of return to education in Kenya, deworming is likely to increase the net present value of wages by more than US$ 40 per treated person. Benefit-to-cost ratio = 100. Deworming may increase adult income by 40%.”
“The economic cost of trachoma in terms of lost productivity is estimated at US$ 2.9 billion annually.”
There are already, “Good medicines are available for many of these diseases, and research continues to document their safety and efficacy when administered individually or in combination.”
“Nearly 670 million people had been reached with preventive chemotherapy by the end of 2008. For some of these diseases, evidence indicates that, when a certain threshold of population coverage is reached, transmission drops significantly; this raises the possibility that several of these ancient diseases could be eliminated by 2020 if current efforts to scale up interventions for preventive chemotherapy are increased.”
Please read UN Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan’s remarks from the Geneva, Switzerland launch of the WHO report