The following is a guest blog post from Andrea Corazza, European Advocacy Officer, Global Health Advocates*
Through its policies, legislation and bilateral/regional trade agreements, the European Union (EU) has a major impact on global health both in terms of research and development (R&D) of new and improved medicines for Poverty-Related and Neglected Diseases (PRNDs) and their accessibility to populations in developing countries.
This Working Group provides a platform to ensure that global health issues remain high on the EU agenda and to advocate for the adoption of EU policies that stimulate innovation for urgently-needed health tools and improve access to existing medicines, diagnostics and vaccines. The working group regularly organises high-level events, meetings and occasionally field visits for MEPs, EU institutions’ staff and parliamentarians from African, Caribbean and Pacific countries to show, among others, the impact of R&D gaps on the health of populations in developing countries and foster the understanding of decision-makers on these issues.
Following recent elections at the European Parliament in May 2014, the Working Group, which gathers about 300 members from a broad range of stakeholders, is renewing its membership to bring additional energy and commitment to its work and activities. Former members have testified about the importance of the Group and are inviting new MEPs to join via this short and inspiring video:
Both Horizon 2020, the EU €70 billion Research and Innovation Programme, and the continuation of the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP), a partnership between the European Commission and several European and African countries, present great opportunities to increase the EU’s contribution towards research and innovation for PRNDs in the coming years. By raising the profile of these issues, contributing to annual budget negotiations and using their power of scrutiny over EU policies, members of the Working Group will play a crucial role in ensuring that EU institutions are engaged in the fight against PRNDs both politically and financially.
*Global Health Advocates is a non-governmental organisation based in Paris and Brussels that advocates for policy change at the highest political level and mobilizes resources to tackle major health threats and build sustainable health systems.
 As intended here, PRNDs include the three big diseases of poverty (HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria) and the 17 Neglected Tropical Diseases recognized by the World Health Organization.
The Global Network is happy to share END in Africa’s announcement congratulating Ghana on the launch of its NTD master plan and and 2014 strategic mass drug administration campaign. View the original post here.
On Thursday, July 3, 2014, the Government of Ghana launched both its Ghana Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) master plan and its 2014 strategic mass drug administration (MDA) campaign, while also celebrating the One Billionth NTD Treatment delivered globally with USAID support. USAID funds the END in Africa project, which supports Ghana Health Services (GHS) and the Ghana’s NTD program in providing medicines that protect 26.3 million Ghanaians from contracting NTDs such as trachoma, onchocerciasis, lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminths.
Ghana Minister of Health Hon. Sherry Ayittey with Queen Mothers from the Greater Accra Region at Ghana NTD Master Plan and 2014 MDA Campaign Launch. Photo: FHI360
At a colorful event at Accra’s La Beach Hotel today, Ghana’s Minister of Health Hon. Sherry Ayittey presided over the launch of the country’s NTD master plan and 2014 MDA campaign. Along with Acting Director of USAID/Ghana Peter Trenchard, the Hon. Minister Ayittey presented certificates and awards to Community Health Volunteer Madam Mary Becheyiri and NTD Program Technical Officer Mr. Alhassan Ahmed, who represented the many thousands of unsung heroes in Ghana’s NTD elimination and control efforts.
Ghana Minister of Health Hon. Sherry Ayittey and USAID/Ghana Acting Director Peter Trenchard Present Award to Community Health Volunteer Madam Mary Becheyiri, who was selected as one of Ghana’s NTD unsung heroes. Photo: FHI360
Under the direction of Rebecca Ackwonu, Public Relations Officer for the Director General of the GHS and Master of Ceremonies for today’s event, a symbolic MDA took place, led by a community health volunteer. The event was chaired by Nii La Mantse, a paramount chief of La, where the event took place.
Also in attendance were Acting Director of USAID’s Ghana Mission Peter Trenchard, Queen mothers from the Greater Accra Region, Director General of the Ghana Health Service Dr. Ebenezar Appiah-Denkyira, Ghana NTD Programme Manager Dr. Nana Kwadwo Biritwum, as well as many other directors and programme managers from the Ghana Health Service. NTD partners from organizations such as END in Africa, FH1360, the Volta River Authority, the Partnership for Child Development, Liverpool Centre for Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD), Sight Savers Ghana, the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) were also represented.
Honduras became the first country in Latin America and the Caribbean to launch its national and integrated plan addressing neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in April 2012; however, information gaps regarding the prevalence and intensity of soil-transmitted helminth (STH or intestinal worm) infections remained. The first comprehensive historic review of soil-STH prevalence and research studies done in Honduras was recently published – the information analyzed and presented in the new article will be instrumental in the successful implementation of the country’s national plan on NTDs.
As part of their efforts, the researchers conducted a review of hundreds of studies dating back to May 1930, some of which had not been published. Using studies published between 2001 and 2012 that included epidemiological data from Honduras’ 18 departments, the researchers were able to produce STH prevalence maps. The researchers included the most recent information available after consulting with various groups involved in STH control activities, including the Ministry of Health, the Healthy Schools Program, the Parasitology Department of the School of Microbiology (part of the National Autonomous University of Honduras, UNAH), the World Food Program and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
The researchers also found that the STH prevalence was higher in municipalities with a lower socioeconomic status – those characterized by having a lower human development index and less access to safe drinking water or improved sanitation.
The Sabin Vaccine Institute’s Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases recently traveled to Honduras and witnessed the effects of intestinal worms on some of Honduras’ poorest communities, including those in the department of Choluteca. After speaking with a head teacher at Escuela Urbana Mixta Pedro Nufio (1st to 6th grade), we learned that 880 students attending the school were at risk for intestinal worms.
View photos from the trip below:
Children in Choluteca and across Honduras are being treated annually for intestinal worms thanks to Honduras’ national plan of action against NTDs. However, many children are still heavily infected. For example, some students in Choluteca expelled worms through their mouth and nose after receiving treatment – a sign of heavy infection.
However, progress is being made and the deworming of preschool children has been institutionalized as part of national vaccination week activities in the country. Honduras is continuing to lead in one of the fundamental components in the fight against NTDs: integration with infrastructure improvements in water and sanitation, supported by community education campaigns. This type of cross-sectoral integration will bring us closer to achieving the NTD 2020 control and elimination goals set by the WHO Roadmap.
We look forward to sharing stories of how the government of Honduras and its partners use the findings from this study to successfully implement their national plan on NTDs! We invite you to follow Dr. Bottazzi (@mebottazzi) and the PLOS NTDs journal (@PLOSNTDs) on Twitter, to keep up with new developments in the NTD field.