Category Archives: NTDs

Achieving Global Health Impact through Strategic Communications

 

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(L to R) Richard Hatzfeld, Sabin Vaccine Institute; David Harris, independent creative consultant; Elizabeth Bass, Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science

In a world where politics, ideology and values sometimes outweigh evidence, how can global health professionals better communicate what they do in order to achieve impact?  Global Network’s Managing Director, Dr. Neeraj Mistry, addressed this question at last week’s American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) Annual Meeting. His panel discussion, titled “Using Communications to Elevate Neglected Tropical Diseases as a Policy Priority,” featured insights from Richard Hatzfeld, communications director for the Sabin Vaccine Institute; David Harris, an independent creative consultant who helped develop the ideas behind the END7 campaign; and Elizabeth Bass, director of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science.

ARK_8895Elizabeth began by stressing the importance of knowing your audience and goals. While some stakeholders, including policy makers, may be familiar with your issue, it is important to understand where they are coming from so messaging can be adjusted accordingly. She also emphasized the importance of connecting with people. Each and every one of us has a unique background – whether we’re a cancer survivor, an animal lover, a mother or an athlete. If your audience knows more about who you are as a person, they are more likely to trust you and take what you say seriously, she said. Lastly, Elizabeth clued the audience in on what she sees as the “wonder drug” of communications: storytelling. While statistics can cause an audience’s eyes to glaze over, stories have the power to grab an audience’s interest, evoke emotion and make people care.

Further emphasizing the importance of storytelling, David Harris discussed creative communication campaigns that have worked. Every day, our brains are inundated with hundreds of advertising messages – so an engaging and creative story is necessary to stand out and cut through the noise. He first used the example of the Wise Child Trust – a largely unknown charity (at the time) that is working to end child trafficking. Through David’s innovative marketing campaign, happy and healthy school children in the UK were encouraged to write their own story about love, hope or friendship. These stories stood in stark contrast to the terrible stories of trafficked children. The stories of the school children were compiled into a book and were then sold to parents and the community –with all proceeds going towards Wise Child Trust. This campaign was hugely successful and used the power of storytelling to raise an unprecedented amount of awareness and funds for Wise Child Trust.

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David also discussed the Global Network’s END7 campaign and its “How to Shock a Celebrity” video which has gained more than 600,000 views. The concept of “END7” has been effective, explained David, because of its specific and time-bound goal: End 7 neglected tropical diseases by 2020. The campaign’s tagline, “together we can see the end,” is inclusive and encourages everyone to be a part of the solution. In addition, he said, the campaign has a strong call to action – donate just 50 cents to treat and protect one child. was hugely successful and used the power of storytelling to raise an unprecedented amount of awareness and funds for Wise Child Trust.

ARK_8914Next, Richard provided an overview of a communications campaign in India which will raise awareness of an upcoming mass drug administration for lymphatic filariasis (LF). He discussed the unique challenges of the campaign, which include messaging to diverse audiences, encouraging compliance and reaching media dark areas without access to television or radio. Richard emphasized that an effective communications campaign can overcome these issues and support the Indian government in their effort to eliminate LF by 2015.

The remarks provided by Neeraj, Elizabeth, David and Richard drew needed attention to the importance of communications and storytelling in the field of global health. Through effective and smart communications, the global health community can have an even bigger impact on the world’s most vulnerable communities.

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.

VlogBrother John Green Captures Trip to Ethiopia through Video Blogs

 

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By Angad Dhindsa and Emily Conron

This summer John Green, the author of A Fault in Our Stars and one half of the video-blogging VlogBrothers, took a trip to Ethiopia with Bill Gates. Despite John’s admitted fear of mosquito-borne illness, he enthusiastically traveled to East Africa to witness the region’s dramatic improvements in health care and reduced infant mortality. In addition, John was able to learn how he – as a video blogger and public figure – could improve the health of poor communities in the region.

Throughout his trip, John captured a series of video blogs to share with his devoted followers – referred to as “Nerdfighters.” John mentions that in contrast to the United States, poor communities in Ethiopia lack access to social media, YouTube and other mediums often used to connect with others far away and amplify important messages.

To cap off the trip John started a fundraising campaign with water.org for Ethiopia to continue developing sustainable water solutions. Bill Gates decided this was a great idea and agreed to match $100,000 of donations if they were raised.

For more on John Green’s trip, read some of his quotes and watch his videos below:


John: “Hank, I’ve found humans to be extraordinarily generous within their social networks, like think of how quickly we support friends and colleagues in need. But lack of access to like, Tumblr and YouTube makes most people living in absolute poverty totally voiceless in our online world, and inevitably we begin to imagine their problems as others, as things that don’t happen to us.”


John: “But this brings up an interesting problem, which is that the internet in Ethiopia is CRAZY SLOW. [Dial-up modem noise plays] I mean, like, yes, that slow. That makes it hard to watch a lot of creators, it makes it hard to comment; it also takes forever for Tumblr to load. And we talked about how that makes it hard to be an active participant in online communities. Almost all of their social media interaction happens with people they know in real life. To which I said, “What is real life??””


John: “But it was also hard to watch, it’s hard to see kids suffer, and mothers worry, and to feel powerless before it, and it’s hard because these are problems that I was unaccustomed to, I mean the poor are voiceless in too much of our contemporary discourse. This kid’s mom doesn’t have a Twitter or a Youtube channel. And so we don’t hear about her challenges as directly as we hear about others. Maybe that’s part of what makes it easier to look away too, but regardless, I kept doing it; I have hours of footage of my camera looking away.”

Clearly, the VlogBrothers have a fresh take on the challenges of international development after this trip and a unique platform with which to share their new insights. Their “Nerdfighter” community is famous for their generosity – and creativity – in responding to social problems, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for a variety of causes through their annual Project for Awesome, a YouTube crowdfunding campaign where members of the Nerdfighter community compete with creative videos advocating for different charities to win part of a pot of money raised by the community. This year, END7 will be encouraging our growing community of student supporters to create videos for the contest in the hopes of both raising money for NTD treatment programs around the world and raising awareness of NTDs among a new audience. We’re excited to see what the VlogBrothers think of next!

Ecuador Becomes Second Country in the World to Eliminate River Blindness

 

With help from the Carter Center and the Pan American Health Organization, Ecuador has officially become the second country in the world to achieve elimination of onchocerciasis (river blindness).

To eliminate onchocerciasis in Ecuador, the country had to overcome a major obstacle — Simulium exiguum; the main vector in Ecuador is exceptional at transmitting the disease. Ecuador’s Ministry of Health had been distributing medication in the country since 1990 — halting distribution in 2010 after transmission of the disease was successfully interrupted.

Watch a video from the Carter Center to see how treatment reached some of the most remote communities in Ecuador:

Ecuador is the second country in the world to receive verification from the World Health Organization in eliminating onchocerciasis after Colombia in 2013. The next challenge being undertaken in the fight against onchocerciasis in the Americas is addressing the disease in the scattered and migratory Yanomani population who live in the border area between Venezuela and Brazil.

Read the Pan American Health Organization’s press release here.