Category Archives: Public Health

Dr. Neeraj Mistry speaks at the UN ECOSOC High-Level Political Forum on July 9, 2015.

What Gets Measured Gets Counted

A man is disfigured and shunned by his community. A child is too tired and sick to go to school. A woman is blinded by an infection. These are just some of the effects of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). There are 1.4 billion of these stories — one for each person whose life is impacted by an NTD.

We can’t tell every one of these stories, so we rely on numbers. 1.4 billion people. More than half a billion children. These numbers are our rallying cry. Statistics tell us where we are improving and where we are failing, and provide a sense of scale for problems too big to comprehend.

Fifteen years ago, the United Nations (UN) established the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight international development goals that brought together the global health and development community to tackle some of mankind’s greatest challenges. The eight narrow targets “helped channel everyone’s energies — and money,” according to NPR’s Nurith Aizenman. Unfortunately, that meant issues without clear targets were left behind. NTDs were listed in the MDGs as “other diseases,” and had no specific indicator. As a result, these diseases, true to their name, have remained neglected.

When the MDGs expire at the end of 2015, they will make way for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a new set of targets that present a second chance to ensure NTDs receive the attention they deserve. Back in 2000, the process of developing the MDGs was “brilliantly simple,” Mark Malloch-Brown, a member of the original UN team that developed the MDGs, told NPR. But things are very different this time around. With the MDGs far surpassing initial expectations, all eyes are on the SDGs, and the process is far from simple.

Following years of politicking and debate, the UN Summit is expected to adopt the finalized SDGs in September, and the UN Statistical Commission plans to set official indicators in March 2016. At last count, the proposal contained 17 goals and 169 proposed targets. Though critics say the proposal’s broad scope will dilute its effectiveness, these myriad goals will level the playing field, elevating important issues that were ignored by the MDGs.

NTDs are included in Goal 3 of the proposed SDGs, which reads, “by 2030 end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and neglected tropical diseases and combat hepatitis, water-borne diseases, and other communicable diseases.” This explicit mention of NTDs is already an improvement over the MDGs, but what does it mean to “end the epidemic”? A clear indicator will be key to rallying support for NTD elimination.

But an initial draft of indicators presented during the March meeting of the UN Statistical Commission failed to include indicators for NTDs. As we have learned from the MDGs, “what gets measured gets counted,” said Global Network Managing Director Dr. Neeraj Mistry in remarks at the UN Economic and Social Council’s High-Level Political Forum earlier this month.

To effectively control and eliminate NTDs will require a coordinated global effort, and finding the right set of indicators will be extremely important. The NTD community strongly recommends:

90 percent reduction in the number of people requiring interventions against NTDs by 2030

Treating NTDs is extremely cost-effective and contributes greatly to the success of broader development goals. With medications already available, NTD elimination is not only possible, it’s within our grasp. And with a clear indicator, we can meet this target within the next 15 years.

Photo: Dr. Neeraj Mistry speaks at the UN ECOSOC High-Level Political Forum on July 9, 2015. 

Top News Stories



Come here every month to see the most important news on NTDs!

1.  Malawi Eliminates Lymphatic Filariasis (LF) Disease – AllAfrica, June 1
2.  Jigawa Trains 650 Health Workers on Neglected Diseases – PM News Nigeria,    June 8
3.  It’s Not Just About Bad Choices – The New York times, June 13
4.  The Planet’s Children and Their Neglected Tropical Diseases– Healio, June 12
5.  WB Backs Tropical Diseases Project in Africa with $121m – Trade Arabia, June   12
6. Cannes Lions 2015: Ogilvy Bags Silver, Medulla Bags Bronze – Campaign India, June 20
7.  Nigeria: Gates Foundation to Boost Primary Healthcare in lagos – AllAfrica, June 20
8.  New Report: Investments in Neglected Tropical Diseases Are One of the Best Buys in Development – Uniting to Combat NTDs, June 24
9.  India’s Next Public Health Victory – Impatient Optimists, June 24
10. Network to Check Tropical Diseases – The Hindu, June 25

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NTDS Take the Stage at the Social Good Summit


(from right to left) Dr. Neeraj Mistry, managing director of the Global Network; David Harris, executive creative director of Draftfcb in London; and Peter Koechley, co-founder of Upworthy, present at the Social Good Summit in New York City

(from right to left) Dr. Neeraj Mistry, managing director of the Global Network; David Harris, executive creative director of Draftfcb in London; and Peter Koechley, co-founder of Upworthy, present at the Social Good Summit in New York City.


“We have a wonderful public-private partnership with the pharmaceutical industry who are donating all the drugs, and we have great technical experts that actually help to ensure that these drugs get to the people that require them. So now we need to create the movement to ensure that it’s seeded in the public consciousness, and that enables us to influence policy and get more money for the cause for essentially a voiceless community.” – Dr. Neeraj Mistry, managing director of the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, at the Social Good Summit

Yesterday, at the Social Good Summit (SGS) in New York City, the Global Network had a phenomenal opportunity to join innovative and inspiring leaders in technology, media and policy from all over the world to discuss how we can accelerate progress on development issues such as poverty, education, equal rights, girls and women, and climate change by 2030.

We were honored to be part of that fascinating conversation hosted by the 92 Street Y, Mashable, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, among others, by speaking on a panel, “Is shock value a way to spur social good?” Our presenters, Dr. Neeraj Mistry, managing director of the Global Network; David Harris, executive creative director of Draftfcb in London; and Peter Koechley, co-founder of Upworthy, shared how our END7 “Celebrity Shocker” video relied on raw emotion, celebrity engagement, social media – and of course shock value – to catapult awareness for NTDs and prompt thousands of people to take action.

Neeraj began by talking about the two ways in which people essentially react: emotionally and rationally. On the one hand, people react with their guts, knowing how they feel about something immediately. Conversely, sometimes people react slowly about something and are able to make calculated decisions in response. With this in mind, Neeraj explained, the Global Network “decided to fight the [NTD] cause on both fronts.”

Only minutes into the panel, we discovered very few people in the audience actually knew about NTDs and how they afflict over a billion people worldwide, most of whom live on less than $1.25 a day. In fact, just a few hands out of hundreds of people went up when Neeraj asked about their familiarity with them!

"How to Shock a Celebrity" plays in front of the audience

“How to Shock a Celebrity” plays in front of the audience

So, just as we introduced NTDs to hundreds of thousands of people earlier this year with our END7 “Celebrity Shocker” video, we grabbed people’s attention at SGS by playing the video for them. What we saw and heard was so moving – and quite telling: gasps, hands over people’s mouths, jaws dropping and sheer sadness on their faces.

David then provided insights about the creative process behind END7 and our PSA. He explained, “Our biggest challenge was that these aren’t very user friendly images to put in front of a public. And our challenge was really that no one knows what these diseases are.” The key for him, therefore, was to “create a little bit of suspense and engagement” that would build empathy and emotions “that connect us and drive us to do something.”

Though END7 has an ambitious goal – seeing the end of the seven most common NTDs in seven years (by 2020) – it’s actually possible. As David said, “the really shocking thing is that there’s a cure for such a small amount of money.” For just 50 cents, we can treat and protect one person per year with a packet of pills donated by the pharmaceutical industry. “The idea is that anyone, in their small way, can contribute to the campaign,” David noted, and that we can all help alleviate widespread suffering and poverty caused by these horrific diseases with just a simple, small donation.

As Peter described, a successful public awareness campaign for any organization isn’t just about the creative assets, it’s also very much about the strategy behind sharing them, building an audience and encouraging people to act on what they’ve seen.

“The type of emotion matters,” Peter said, noting that a goal of campaigns should be to spur emotions that “get people to sit forward in your chair to do something.” These include outrage, shock, happiness and inspiration. Peter and others at Upworthy felt compelled to share the video because it not only hit on these powerful points but also that “if [treatment is] just 50 cents…we can help a few hundred thousand more people see this and help make a difference.”

Wrapping up the discussion, Neeraj noted that tackling NTDs is one of the most cost-effective public health interventions out there today. And, because NTDs are linked to many of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), if we address them, we can make improvements to many of the challenges other SGS presenters highlighted, such as water and sanitation, access to education, and maternal and child health.

“We see the END7 campaign as a vehicle to actually raise attention to these [neglected] communities, and once we mainstream that in our collective consciousness, like every movement, we’ll be able to tackle this issue.”

Thank you again to the Social Good Summit for inviting us to be part of this innovative and thought-provoking global discussion! We were inspired by so many presenters, including Malala, Magatte Wade, Barbara Bush, and so many others, and we look forward to seeing the resulting impact in the coming years!

Join us by learning more at and watching the panel below. Together, we can see the end.