Students from around the world wrote essays as part of their application for leadership positions with END7 for the upcoming academic year. Two students were awarded scholarships to attend the Millennium Campus Conference in Washington, DC. We are publishing the best essays on our blog during the Millennium Campus Conference this week. Runner-up Bailey Hilton of James Madison University (Harrisonburg, Virginia) wrote this essay in response to the prompt “How do you think students and young people can be agents of meaningful change contributing to the fight against NTDs?:”
By Bailey Hilton James Madison University
I, for one, feel very lucky to be considered a millennial. In my lifetime I have seen technology advance from cassette tapes, to CDs, to mp3 files; and from VHS tapes, to DVDs, to streaming movies on demand. We are the first generation to take computerized tests and to learn online. We are otherwise known as Generation Y, or Generation “Why,” because we ask so many questions. I believe that my generation is the powerhouse that is going to change the world with innovation, intelligence, and forward thinking.
On March 1, 2016, I attended the END7 Student Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. alongside forty other college students representing END7 from all across the United States. Together we met with 39 offices of U.S. senators and representatives to discuss the United States Agency for International Development’s Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) Program budget. My group had a meeting with the office of Senator Diane Feinstein of California. The moment that I so vividly remember from that meeting was when the senator’s advisor told us that speaking to us about this issue we were so passionate about gave her hope for our generation, and that she felt confident that the future is in the right hands. Though she may not have fully shared our particular passion for NTDs, our meeting reinforced her belief in our generation’s ability to make a difference in our country and in the world.
After my experience at the END7 Student Advocacy Day, I am confident that if my small group could leave an impression on the most important policymakers in the U.S. government, then we can certainly make an impact on our peers back at our respective schools. After returning from Washington, I decided to get more involved in the fight against NTDs and was elected President of the Dukes Fighting NTDs Club at James Madison University.
Every student attending the Millennium Campus Conference shares a passion for being a catalyst of change within their communities, country, and the world. We all share a common goal: to make the world a better place. One of our most important talking points from Student Advocacy Day described the impact that NTDs could have on every aspect of a patient’s life: their overall health, their education, their jobs, and their families. If I were selected for this scholarship to attend the conference, I would use this talking point to create a connection between NTDs and the causes that others in attendance are passionate about. For example, if someone at the conference is attending on behalf of their organization that focuses on HIV and AIDS, I could show the relationship between treatment of NTDs and decreased risk of women contracting HIV. By bringing attention to this connection, I believe I will be able to motivate new students to join our campaign and the fight to end NTDs.
An important concept that comes into play here is reciprocal determinism, which states that our decisions can be impacted by our environment, and vice versa. This concept was very important in my Health Behavior Change class and I think that it applies well in this particular scenario. I believe that if I can create a connection between myself and others, as well as between my organization (END7 and Dukes Fighting NTDs) and the organizations that others are passionate about, together our choices will positively impact the environment (the world, and those impacted by NTDs). In turn as the environment improves, our choices will change and evolve to continue to make an impact. I believe that my vision could have widespread impact not only on the END7 campaign, but also into other issues as we all come together and work to achieve our common goal of making the world a better, healthier place for all.
Students from around the world wrote essays as part of their application for leadership positions with END7 for the upcoming academic year. Two students were awarded scholarships to attend the Millennium Campus Conference in Washington, DC. We are publishing the best essays on our blog during the Millennium Campus Conference this week. Runner-up Shangir Siddique of the University of Texas Health Science Center School of Public Health (Houston, Texas) wrote this essay in response to the prompt “How do you think students and young people can be agents of meaningful change contributing to the fight against NTDs?:”
By Shangir Siddique University of Texas Health Science Center School of Public Health
For most students, the idea of fighting against NTDs across the world seems to be a task for medical professionals, many of them MDs and PhDs, often working in large organizations such as the World Health Organization. But too often, we, as millennials, forget that many of the world’s problems will be ours to solve one day. We cannot wait for a scientist in a white lab coat to discover the cure for everything, nor can we depend on politicians to debate in marbled rooms while hundreds of lives are lost. For young minds to start off with the mentality that just because they are not “old enough” or “knowledgeable enough” they cannot achieve great feats serves not only as a hindrance to those young minds but as a disservice to the many people they could positively impact, if not save. I can speak from my own experience as a team leader for the School Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey program, a Texas-wide obesity surveillance program where we worked with young students from 2nd grade all the way up to 11th grade. We not only conducted body measurements, but we also administered an expansive survey that asked not only about their fitness and nutritional habits but that of their close loved ones. This program has been ongoing for many years, with the data collection process occurring every four years. Once all the data has been collected, it is analyzed and a report is drafted that is sent to the Texas State Legislature. The State Legislature then decides to enact new laws that promote a health-conscious environment for the students throughout Texas. The program has already had significant successes, with schools removing certain unhealthy food options from their lunches, to providing bottled water instead of sodas. It is our goal that by raising a more health conscious younger generation, we can reverse this trend of higher obesity rates we see across the nation. And to think, this was achieved by the collective efforts of young, motivated individuals who stepped up to the challenge. If we can influence the Texas State Legislature, there is nothing college students cannot achieve. It is this mentality that should motivate young people to address NTDs and propel the END7 campaign.
If I were selected for a scholarship, I would be able to spend my time at the Millennium Campus Conference not only campaigning for the END7 Campaign but taking full advantage of the audience I would have available to me. The Millennium Campus Conference attendees are individuals who are extremely interested in dedicated their lives to social work. Of those among their age group, they likely understand the difficulties associated with enacting and producing enough change to benefit the most vulnerable among us. Thus, while campaigning, I would explain how simple it is to combat NTDs. The treatments have already been discovered! All it is a matter of raising the funds necessary to bring the pills to those who need them. For many social activists, it is a lack of knowledge relating to NTDs that likely act as a barrier towards action. Once we have the opportunity to education and inform them, many will rise up to the challenge and join our campaign. For those who may remain skeptical, I would explain what life is like for the people in those countries, referencing my past visits to Bangladesh. I would explain that they lack the convenience of pharmacies around every corner, or how some villages do not have a single physician. Fortunately, the leadership and public speaking experience that I gained from teaching undergraduate laboratory courses and serving as the Vice President in my school’s student government will prove to be useful to inspiring the attendees of the conference.
Now more than ever, young people are discovering how much is at stake depending on what we do. Whether or not we take action can affect multiple issues, and in the case of NTDs, can directly impact the lives of other people around the world. My interest in NTDs may be influenced by my background in public health and epidemiology, but there remains the essential human component that drives us all to act when we see others suffering. If I am given the opportunity to attend the conference, I will make it my priority not only to campaign and educate about NTDs and the END7 campaign, but to awaken this internal drive that I am sure will be present in those who attend.
Shangir Siddique is a graduate student at The University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, School of Public Health, where he is pursuing a masters of public health in Epidemiology. His research interests focus on specific disease prevalence in the Rio Grande Valley, one of the most severely underserved areas in the United States. He is also interested in global public health relating to the effects of poverty on healthcare. While an undergraduate biology honors student, he served on the Student Government Association as the vice president and held various on-campus jobs including academic tutor, research assistant, and laboratory assistant. He has also volunteered at Valley Regional Medical Center for four years and established a library in the pediatric department during his time as president of the Junior Auxiliary Volunteer Program. As part of the Early Medical School Acceptance Program, Shangir will attend medical school and eventually become a public health advocate for underserved communities.
Students from around the world wrote essays as part of their application for leadership positions with END7 for the upcoming academic year. Two students were awarded scholarships to attend the
By Gerald Oyeki Makere University (Kampala, Uganda)
Nelson Mandela, one of Africa’s greatest statesmen quoted, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’ Students and young people constitute the most significant medium of change, transformation and generational growth, given that they are sources of energy, charisma and fountains of knowledge and innovation. Thus, their contribution in addressing global crises plays a pivotal role.
END7 is an international advocacy campaign that seeks to raise the awareness and funding necessary to control and eliminate the seven most common neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), which are a group of chronic and debilitating conditions, caused by parasitic and bacterial infections, by 2020. These diseases include elephantiasis, river blindness, snail fever, trachoma, roundworm and hookworm. They are mainly poverty-driven and are most prevalent in the poorest populations in the world in Asia, Latin America and Africa, with women and children who live in unsanitary environments facing the biggest threats. Such areas have little access to clean water or proper ways to dispose of human waste which are predisposing factors for the occurrence of these diseases. Neglected tropical diseases impair physical and cognitive development, contribute to maternal and child illness and death, and make it difficult to farm or earn a living – thus, the drive to end extreme poverty may not yield fruit if they are not dealt with.
According to the United Nations Human Development Report 2007/2008, Sub-Saharan Africa faces a serious threat for the occurrence and spread of NTDs and thus the urgency for action cannot be ignored. This has led to several integrated efforts to combat the diseases including mass sensitization and education, improvement of basic water, sanitation and hygiene, and mass drug administration as strategies pursued by various stakeholders, policy makers, implementers, funders and the society at large. For instance, in Uganda, the “One Health” concept appreciates and acknowledges that animal health, human health and the environment are a united system that cannot be independent of each other, and that the wellbeing of humans has got a significant dependence on the health of animals and the environment. This has facilitated the fight against zoonotic diseases, like rabies and soil-transmitted helminthes. Programs like the USAID NTD program, the Makerere University College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Biosecurity and College of Health Sciences, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock Industry and Fisheries have taken lead roles in the fight against these diseases to support Uganda’s goal of eliminating lymphatic filariasis and blinding trachoma by 2020.
However, the fight to end NTDs is still yet to be accomplished with a number of challenges like low awareness of these diseases, low education levels, and financial constraints for treatment programs. To address these challenges, engaging young people will be key. According to the 2014 United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) ‘State of the world’ report, Sub-Saharan African countries have a disproportionally large youth cohort. In fifteen countries in sub-Saharan Africa, half the population is under age 18. UNFPA’s review of youth-related policies in these countries suggest that the vast majority have committed to investments in youth-related initiatives and recognize their importance. Students and the youth population are in a strong position to create awareness NTDs and how they can be treated and prevented, actively participate in mass drug administration campaigns, influence government policy and priorities towards funding and fighting NTDs through advocacy led by student clubs and associations. One example of a group that could lead this effort is the One Health Students Club at Makerere University College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Biosecurity, for which I serve as speaker emeritus. Our group carries out mass vaccination of animals, most commonly dogs, against zoonotic diseases like rabies (an NTD). The Acholi Students Union, for which I’m currently speaker, engages in mass sensitization of the Acholi ethnic group through radio talk shows, school visits and community outreach, which could be directed towards NTD education. Students can also engage in fundraising drives to boost resources for the fight against NTDs. Furthermore, students can advance NTD research at their universities.
The Millennium Campus Conference is a rich platform for me to use my oratory and leadership skills to interact with peers involved in international development, share knowledge, and convince student leaders from other parts of the world, of all different backgrounds – from both low, middle, and high income countries – of the urgency to eliminate NTDs, and how an integrated global youth approach could help accomplish this goal.
By Ishmael I. T. Jalloh END7 Campus Leaders Council Representative, University of Sierra Leone
Ishmael I. T. Jalloh is a pharmacy student at the University of Sierra Leone (USL) College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences. He launched an END7 chapter at his school last fall and with his peers launched additional chapters at USL Institute of Public Administration and Management and Fourah Bay College, creating a growing movement of students and young people committed to seeing the end of NTDs in
In May, these students embarked on an 11-day social mobilization and campus engagement campaign to raise awareness about a major mass drug administration (MDA) campaign to prevent lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis). Through visits to local schools and colleges, media outreach, and creative communication, the students encouraged everyone in their community to participate in the MDA – and even helped with drug distribution in some areas.
Lymphatic filariasis (LF) is caused by infection with one of three species of filarial nematode (Wuchereria bancroft i, Brugia malayi or B. timori) that are transmitted by mosquitoes. Adult worms live almost exclusively in humans and lodge in the lymphatic system. Repeated mosquito bites over several months to years are needed to become infected with LF. The infection commonly acquired during childhood but usually manifests during adulthood as hydrocele, lymphoedema and elephantiasis.
All the districts in Sierra Leone are endemic for LF ( >1% prevalence), and it is a leading cause of permanent disability in the country. Communities frequently shun and reject women and men disfigured by the disease. Affected people frequently are unable to work because of their disability, and this harms their families and their communities.
To combat LF, preventive chemotherapy through mass drug administration (MDA) of ivermectin and albendazole started in 2008 in western rural Sierra Leone, but was interrupted in 2014 due to the Ebola outbreak. MDA was restarted in October 2015 and continued in May 2016.
END7 is an international advocacy campaign of the Sabin Vaccine Institute with student chapters active around the world. In May of 2016, END7 student supporters at the University of Sierra Leone (USL) led an 11-day campaign to raise awareness and educate students about the LF MDA in Western Area, Freetown, Sierra Leone.
The objectives of the social mobilization and campus engagement campaign were to:
- Increase public awareness of the MDA
- Educate heads of colleges and students on the importance of MDA
- Educate heads of colleges and students about the drugs being distributed (ivermectin and albendazole)
- Advocate to District Health Management Team so that community health workers would be sure to take these drugs to the colleges
- Encourage heads of colleges and students to take these drugs
The social mobilization and awareness raising targeted people in authority and the most influential people in the colleges and campuses: heads of colleges, deans of faculties, administrative assistants, wardens of Colleges, Student Union presidents, and leaders of Christian organization, Muslim organization and other recognized organizations in the colleges. By targeting these leaders, we hoped to encourage them to use their influence to encourage many more people to participate in the MDA.
The awareness raising and campus engagement campaign started on the May 20 and ran until May 31. In that time, the END7 USL team of student leaders visited eight colleges in Freetown. We started at the Milton Margai College of Education and Technology, Congo Cross campus. The END7 USL team met with the student governor, Dean of Campus, Mr. Umaru Bah and students in various classes of the college to educate students about LF and the importance of the MDA.
Next, at Milton Margai College of Education and Technology, Goderich, the END7 USL team met with the student Union President Bilal Afiz Kabba, Ag. Registrar of the college, Mr. Sherifu Bangura, the Vice-Principal of the College, Dr. Tabita, and students gathered at the college hall. END7 students raised awareness and educated the students about the MDA. The END7 team also advocated to the Vice-Principal to include NTDs in the college curriculum.
At Liccsal Business College, the END7 USL team met with the Vice-Principal Dr. Roland Buck, the Assistant Director of student’s affairs, Ibrahim Bangura, and Mr. Benjamin Lebbie, as well as many students of the college.
Then, the END7 team visited the Wilberforce Community Health Center to encourage community health workers based there to treat the students in the surrounding colleges during the MDA. We wanted to make sure that all of our peers would have the chance to receive the drugs they need to stay safe and healthy.
Next, at Freetown Teachers College, the END7 team met with the Registrar, M.I. Sesay, and met with students at the college hall to raise awareness and educate them about the MDA and elephantiasis. At Njala University Freetown, END7 students met with the Deputy Registrar, Christiana Pearce, and visited students in their classes.
At the University of Sierra Leone College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences, after raising awareness about the MDA, END7 student leaders actually assisted in the distribution of the drugs on campus, working with the pharmacy board team to distribute the drugs to administrative staff at the college.
When we visited the University of Sierra Leone Institute of Public Administration and Management, they were in the middle of their examination period, which made it more difficult to reach students with our message. So, we spoke to administrative staff and students who were around on campus. Then, we traveled to Parliament Hospital to advocate for the MDA team there to visit the IPAM campus clinic. We succeeded in bringing the MDA team to treat students at IPAM, but unfortunately, when they arrived on campus, students were not around because of the examination period.
Fourah Bay College was also in the middle of an examination period when our team visited campus, so we made use of the public address system at the nearby airport terminal that was playing the message of the MDA, and met with some administrative staff and students in their classrooms.
In addition to our campus visits, END7 USL was also involved in media outreach to promote the MDA. As president of END7 USL, I was interviewed on a program on Star Television Network to raise awareness of LF and educate Sierra Leoneans about the MDA.
The END7 USL team faced a few challenges during the social mobilization campaign, as this was the first time we planned activities to support an MDA. One of our greatest challenge was advocating to community health workers to take drugs to the colleges so university students could participate in the MDA. Eighty percent of the colleges we visited were treated during the MDA, but this still leaves many students without access to treatment. We will continue our activities to raise awareness of these important public health campaigns, encourage our peers and fellow community members to participate, and advocate to make sure everyone has the chance to be part of MDA campaigns so Sierra Leone can end NTDs for good.
We want to offer special thanks to Hellen Keller International, Sierra Leone for providing the funding and support for us to carry out our social mobilization and campus engagement activities, and a big thank you to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation District Health Management Team for a successful MDA!
Follow END7 USL on