The United Nation’s (UN’s) Millennium development Goals (MDGs) are set to expire in just over a year. What comes next – the post-2015 development agenda – will be critical in determining the future of global health priorities and funding. In a recent PLOS NTDs article, James Smith and Emma Michelle Taylor discuss why NTDs should be included in the post-2015 development agenda and highlight the advances made in NTD funding and recognition in spite of their omission from the MDGs.
There is a clear case for including NTDs in the post-2015 development agenda. NTD control and elimination significantly improve the health of the most marginalized communities, enhance economic performance and contribute to broader development goals included in the MDGs. In fact, not addressing NTDs could undermine efforts to reach virtually all MDGs.
But the cross-cutting nature of NTDs may actually keep these diseases from taking center stage in the post-2015 agenda, the authors argue. In the article, they say the very nature of NTDs – the fact that these diseases are “relatively invisible cross-cutting drivers of poverty” – has limited efforts to focus on them.
Despite this difficulty, the global community is taking notice and is addressing NTDs in unprecedented ways. The authors note that the absence of NTDs from MDG 6: combat HIV/Aids malaria and other diseases, “served as a call to arms for a group of concerned stakeholders, who have since contributed to a series of landmark initiatives that have placed NTDs firmly on the international agenda.”
The two most recent initiatives, which include the London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases and a milestone World Health Organization (WHO) resolution on NTDs, helped secure unprecedented funding from traditional and non-traditional sources.
“Already the fruits of the public-private partnership approach are being felt, with gains in NTD control providing hope that elimination may be a possibility for many of the diseases. The success has been such that the WHO Secretary General, Dr. Margaret Chan, recently referred to the story of the NTDs in the 21st century as one of rags to riches,” Smith and Taylor explain.
So what can we expect from a post-2015 agenda? Will NTDs be included and will this make a difference? The authors note that while NTDs are cross-cutting drivers of poverty, there has been a limited effort to realize synergies between NTDs and other areas like education, health poverty and gender. But looking forward, there’s reason to be hopeful.
As Smith and Taylor mention, “The recently-released report of the high-level panel on the post-2015 development agenda includes an ‘illustrative goal’ for health that will ‘ensure healthy lives’ and explicitly names NTDs alongside HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and non-communicable diseases.”
In closing, the authors state that by including NTDs in the post-2015 agenda, the international community could be signaling a new shift in international development – one that focuses on the “institutions we need to manage the complex social, economic, environmental, and health systems that interact to shape future development.”