Category Archives: Public Health

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 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

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 centswe 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 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.

Making Progress against NTDs in Honduras

Three to four hours. That’s how long one mother was willing to walk to make sure her child attended the annual vaccination and deworming campaign in the village of Coyalito in San Esteban, Honduras.

This past April was my third trip to Honduras in the last 14 months. On my first two trips, I spent the majority of my time running between government offices and meetings – including attending the launch of the Honduras national integrated plan on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).  Honduras was the first country* in Latin America and the Caribbean region to launch such a plan – which ensures that the country is tackling all diseases at once – versus one at a time.

This time on my return to Honduras, I saw firsthand how that plan was being put into motion.

And I was amazed.

For a country facing severe challenges in security and violence, Honduras is a leader and innovator when it comes to tackling NTDs.

Three government divisions – the Ministries of Health, Education and Social Development are working together to reach people in even the most remote parts of the country.  They’ve taken charge by developing working groups to tackle issues and problems they notice when bringing the programs to the community.

They’re enthusiastic. They’re driven. And I’m quite positive that they’re going to succeed.

I know this because I traveled over six hours with the Ministry of Health over unpaved and rocky roadways on their visits to various districts.  Distribution was carefully arranged: a health worker used a loud megaphone to call out to members of the community to invite them to visit the vaccine and deworming campaign.  From there, mothers would bring their young children to receive essential vaccines and deworming medicine.

A nurse practitioner told me that bundling healthcare delivery– such as vaccination and deworming – often encourages more families to come. Most parents know about these diseases, especially the intestinal worms.  In Honduras, and many other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean,  there’s a common belief that if children grind their teeth at night, they have parasites. There is a demand for deworming, and mothers came armed with their child’s immunization card and found a space to account for their child’s annual deworming treatment.

The Honduran ministries are also thinking beyond treatment for NTDs to a more comprehensive approach.  These diseases are often spread due to lack of access to clean water and proper sanitation, which is a reality for some of the families in villages like Coyalito.  As a result, the ministries are pushing to incorporate water filters in schools, and other sanitation initiatives which will propel these treatment programs toward long-term success.

At the end of the day, I joined the health team in brief survey to determine attendance of the campaign. We walked around each “manzana” – or block – to knock on people’s homes and ask them if children were dewormed and vaccinated. Health workers talked to them about why it’s important to attend these campaigns and have their children treated.

Among advocacy organizations, it seems that we often divvy up health issues, as if family planning, treatment for NTDs and vaccination are all independent projects.  But, the reality is that often, at the point-of-care level, everything is bundled together. It’s very effective.

Our partners in Honduras want to expand this successful initiative to help many more families. END7 is asking supporters to help fill a funding gap to make sure this medicine reaches Honduran children in 20,061 schools. With your help we can reach 1.4 million school children and protect them harmful parasitic worms, including roundworm, hookworm, and whipworm.

Help us see the end of NTDs in Honduras by making a contribution. Read more about END7’s effort to raise money and support for NTD treatment in Honduras here.

*In March 2013, Brazil launched their integrated national plan, and currently several other countries have draft plans in development.

The Neglected Egyptian Protest

About two years ago around this time, crowds of protest movements were enveloping the Middle East and North Africa. Protestors were coming together to work towards better representation of people that had the capacity to serve the larger population, rather than the upper elite. In Egypt, particularly about two years ago around this time, the former President of Egypt of 30 years, Hosni Mubarak, was forced to step down.

The Middle East region includes about 20 countries, with almost 400 million people living within its span. Of this population, about 65 million people live on less than $2 US dollars a day. Egypt has the largest number of people living in poverty in the Middle East, with 18 percent out of 80.4 million living on less than US$2 per day. Loose labor laws, a lack of strong physical infrastructure and a weakened sense of social justice amounted to an overwhelming amount of unsatisfied civilians that took to Tahrir Square in 2011 and have since been fighting for their just representation by government officials.

Economic burdens and restraints, like those that have affected a large portion of Egypt’s population, not only lead to inequality of employment, resources and infrastructure, but they can also eventually lead to the regression of physical health. When you have such a large population living in under-privileged circumstances, people walk a very thin line of safety when it comes to health services. It may not have stood out as a single issue that raised headlines during the protests, but the lack of policy that suppressed the spread of diseases is also a result of government neglect.

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An Easy Choice

Guest Blogger Aika Jakisheva

We all need a change, we all need to believe that we can make a change, but I think you will agree with me on this one – it is almost impossible. I like many other people lost hope in the idea that change is possible. However something inside kept on telling me that I am wrong and my gut feeling was 100% right. In November 2011, very unexpectedly I joined a group of people who were going on a trip to Rwanda in order to explore various opportunities to contribute to the development of the country. I had the opportunity to meet with the government representatives, local businessman, international investors, directors of charity funds as well as the local people themselves. I was in disbelief that this is the country that has been to hell and back. In 1994 Rwanda was subject to one of the most horrifying genocides of the twentieth century between the two tribes: the Tutsi and the Hutu. I expected to see a troubled society that lost all hope in humanity; I cannot believe how wrong I was. Rwanda today is a prospering and rapidly developing country with amazingly driven and inspirational people. And everyday I was asking myself one question: how?

Certainly a correct and strong leadership is a crucial factor of Rwanda’s success, but there is another significant factor that helps to drive this country forward – hope and this hope was brought to them by charities.

I have visited many projects of non-profit organisations and every visit was a memorable experience. What struck me the most was to see how little is needed in order to change the course of life for the better for so many people. By bringing them food, water, education, medical supplies, what charities do is bring to those people hope and confidence in their bright future. In Rwanda I experienced what we tend to think is naïve and childish. I have experienced that amazing belief that you can make a change in this world – and you really can! Continue reading