On March 1, student leaders gathered in Washington, D.C., for the second annual END7 Student Advocacy Day. The event brought together 40 students active in END7 programs, from 15 colleges and universities across the country for 39 meetings with Members of Congress and their staff.
The students traveled to our nation’s capital on planes, trains and buses from as far as Texas and Florida to urge their elected officials to maintain U.S. leadership in the fight against neglected tropical diseases by protecting and increasing the budget for the USAID NTD Program.
They met with congressional offices to discuss the devastating impact of NTDs and how USAID has successfully led global progress against these diseases for a decade. After briefing Congressional staff, students answered questions and requested an increase of the USAID NTD Program budget to $125 million. One student participant, medical student of the University of Central Florida, described her group’s approach:
“As a future physician, my main argument was that we need to care for all human beings, regardless of where they are from. We have the solution and we need to use it. One student in my group, Beza Teferi, is originally from Ethiopia and has seen and experienced the effects of NTDs herself. Another student, Imani Butler, was able to provide the perspective from a research point of view. Her message was that we have a simple solution to these problems, so why not use them.”
Malvika Govil, a student from Rice University, discussed how the money allotted has a multiplier effect – for every dollar invested in treatment programs, pharmaceutical companies donate $26 worth of medicine. Finally, Sujay Dewan, from the University of Pennsylvania, delivered the request an increase of the USAID NTD Program budget to $125 million to ensure that the last decade of progress continues and control and elimination efforts succeed.
END7 students are passionate advocates for the USAID NTD Program. The largest public-private partnership in USAID history, the NTD Program has leveraged more than $11.1 billion in donated drugs over the past decade. Yet, despite the clear impact of NTDs on health and development and the proven cost-effectiveness of treatment, President Obama’s FY 2017 budget proposal only allocated $86.5 million USAID NTD Program – a 13.5 percent cut in funding from the previous three years’ enacted level of $100 million.
Before their busy afternoon of meetings, students participated in a morning coffee with Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), co-chair of the Senate’s Malaria and NTD Caucus, and received a briefing in the Capitol from USAID, RTI International and Helen Keller International. Students then fanned out across Capitol Hill to meet with, in many cases, their own U.S. Senators or House members. The students were well received and numerous offices expressed an interest in supporting the NTD Program’s funding.
Spitzer reported that her group received positive feedback from Senator Lindsey Graham’s and Senator Marco Rubio’s staff and several offices asked for additional information and indicated they would oppose a proposed cut in funding to the USAID NTD Program.
At the end of the day, the students gathered for a closing reception with Barbara Bush, co-founder and CEO of Global Health Corps. Bush spoke movingly of her commitment to global health and developing the next generation of global health leaders.
Bush said, “It is critical that you continue to advocate and work for change by meeting with your representatives in Congress and amplifying your voice and the voices of other END7 supporters through petitions and op-eds. We have so much at our disposal to achieve great things, and we also have the possibility to reimagine leadership that can accomplish even more, including eliminating NTDs. This is exciting, even if it is a bit daunting. But I know, beyond a doubt, that we are up for the task.”
Neeraj Mistry, managing director of the Global Network, and Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, also shared remarks thanking students for their advocacy and urging them to continue the fight against NTDs.
Tayler McCord, a senior and secretary of END7 at Michigan State University, reflected:
“Attending Student Advocacy Day made me even more determined to help change the outlook for those affected by these debilitating diseases. This event not only allowed me to participate directly in this crucial political process but has also inspired me to continue to make my voice heard to our nation’s lawmakers. I am excited to share this passion with my peers at Michigan State and with members of our END7 chapter on campus. I hope to inspire and encourage others to participate in advocacy for NTD treatment to help make a positive difference in the lives of millions of people.”
We are so proud of our student advocates for delivering a powerful message on Capitol Hill.
We are excited to announce that Barbara Bush will give the keynote address at the second annual END7 Student Advocacy Day on Tuesday, March 1. Ms. Bush is the CEO and co-founder of Global Health Corps (GHC). GHC is a leadership development organization focused on building the next generation of global health leaders. GHC competitively recruits highly talented 21 to 30-year-olds from across sectors, geographies, and backgrounds and through a yearlong paid fellowship places them in high-impact positions with organizations on the front lines of global health equity in Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, the United States, and Zambia.
Ms. Bush has previously worked and traveled with the Smithsonian Institution’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, the Red Cross Children’s Hospital in Capetown, South Africa, UNICEF in Botswana, and the UN World Food Programme. Ms. Bush is a member of UNICEF’s Next Generation Steering Committee and is on the Board of Directors of Covenant House International, PSI, Friends of the Global Fight for AIDS, TB, and Malaria, and the UN’s Global Entrepreneurship Council. She is a Draper Richards Foundation Social Entrepreneur, a World Economic Forum Young Global Shaper, and a fellow of the Echoing Green Foundation. She was named one of Glamour Magazine’s Women of the Year in 2011 and one of Newsweek’s Women of Impact in 2013. Ms. Bush graduated from Yale University with a degree in Humanities in 2004.
President George W. Bush launched the United States Agency for International Developments Neglected Tropical Disease Program in 2006. The Program has since delivered more than 1.3 billion NTD treatments in 32 countries. At the END7 Student Advocacy Day closing reception in the Longworth House Office Building, Ms. Bush will share a reflection on shaping the next generation of global health leaders. We are honored to have her join us and meet END7 student leaders from across the United States after they meet with their representatives in Congress to advocate for funding for the USAID NTD Program.
RSVP now for the 2016 END7 Student Advocacy Day at bit.ly/END7StudentAdvocacyDay. All U.S.-based undergraduate and graduate students are invited to attend. See photos from the 2015 END7 Student Advocacy Day on Facebook.
In honor of NTD Awareness Week, and to rally for Thursdays NTD Advocacy Day, we present the below listicle for your enjoyment.
1. Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a group of parasitic and bacterial diseases that affect the world’s poorest people. Without treatment, they can lead to lifelong disabilities and suffering. But NTD treatment programs struggle to find funding.
2. The seven most common NTDs infect over one billion people, including half a billion kids, but it’s not all bad. It only costs 50 cents to treat and protect one person from seven NTDs for a whole year.
3. The United States government — through the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) NTD Program — is a leader in the effort to control and eliminate NTDs worldwide.
4. Since the USAID NTD Program was launched in 2006, more than 1 billion NTD treatments have been delivered to 460 million people across 25 countries.
6. The program’s budget is less than 1% of total U.S. spending on global health. But for the last three years, President Obama has suggested a $13.5 million cut to the program.
7. END7 student supporters spent last spring urging Congress to protect and increase funding for NTD treatment. But the fight is not over. Send a message to President
Bartlett Obama to show your support for the NTD budget!
Sabin Vaccine Institute. END7 is working to raise the awareness and funding necessary to control and eliminate the seven most common neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) by 2020.
by Peter J. Hotez and Neeraj Mistry
The German Bundestag has an opportunity to make unprecedented commitments toward the treatment and prevention of the world’s most common poverty-related diseases — a group of debilitating infections known as the neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). They include ancient scourges linked to poverty such as elephantiasis, river blindness, blinding trachoma, schistosomiasis, roundworm, whipworm and hookworm. Today, these NTDs are among the most common afflictions of the poor, and almost every person living in abject poverty suffers from at least one NTD. New research has shown that these NTDs, because of their long-standing effects on the mental and physical health of children and adults but especially girls and women, now rank among the most important reasons why people cannot escape poverty in the “global south,” including Africa and the Middle East, Asia and Latin America.
For more than 150 years, German science has provided leadership in tropical medicine that makes it possible today to discuss the eventual global elimination of the NTDs. Theodor Bilharz discovered the cause of schistosomiasis (also known as bilharziasis) while working in Egypt in the 1850s; Otto Henry Wucherer conducted studies in Brazil in the 1860s that helped discover Wuchereria bancrofti
Then, in 2005, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) and the World Health Organization organized a landmark conference in Berlin to integrate the control and elimination of the most common NTDs by combining mass treatments for these diseases in a simple “rapid impact package” of medicines. Today those low-cost (less than one Euro per person annually) packages have reached at least 450 million people. As a result, we are now seeing major reductions in the global prevalence of elephantiasis, river blindness and blinding trachoma. Thus, a decade following that historic Berlin meeting, we have the opportunity to eliminate at least these three NTDs.
The Berlin conference also promoted the importance of research and development so that today new interventions are underway including a human hookworm vaccine now in clinical trials in Gabon through a European HOOKVAC Consortium that includes both the Sabin Vaccine Institute’s product development partnership and the Institut für Tropenmedizin, Universitätsklinikum Tübingen. In the 19th century, both Bilharz and Wucherer trained in Tübingen.
The German Bundestag now has a significant opportunity to build on these successes. New legislation to support non-profit product development partnerships to produce new drugs, diagnostics, and vaccines could create a new generation of ground breaking technologies for the world’s poverty related diseases. In parallel, Germany can join the governments of the United States and United Kingdom in supporting the delivery of low-cost rapid impact packages, now recognized as one of the most cost effective global health interventions known.
Earlier this year, Chancellor Angela Merkel also delivered a historic address to the World Health Assembly about the important role the Group of 7 (G7) nations could have in eliminating NTDs. Her call to the G7 to take on NTDs can now be backed with time-sensitive action. The German Bundestag should reassert its historic commitment to these diseases, in the research and development space and for mass treatment. In so doing, Germany can lead efforts to finish the job it began more than a century ago.
Peter Hotez, M.D., Ph.D., is president of the
Neeraj Mistry, M.D., M.P.H., is managing director of the