Category Archives: U.S Government

Can We Nudge the Budget? Our Experience at the END7 Student Advocacy Day


By Anjali Bhatla, Cyrus Ghaznavi and Sri Gopakumar
Rice University Undergraduates 

On a bright spring morning in Washington, D.C., we stood outside the U.S. Capitol in the middle of a whirlwind, 32-hour trip from Houston, Texas.  As we stood in the clearance line to enter the Capitol Visitors Center, we reviewed our materials to prepare for a day of meetings with congressional offices to advocate for a global health issue that each of us has become very passionate about. When we were invited by the Global Network to attend the first-ever END7 Student Advocacy Day on April 22, we realized that this would be a rare opportunity for us to get involved with the political process surrounding the federal budget  and lend our voice in support of neglected tropical disease (NTD) treatment.

This semester, we founded a campus chapter of the END7 campaign at Rice University after we were all separately introduced to the issue of NTDs by Dr. Peter Hotez, President of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, the founding dean of the Baylor College of Medicine National School of Tropical Medicine in Houston and a Baker Institute Fellow in Disease and Poverty at Rice University. Whether it was through working for Dr. Hotez or taking his seminar class, the three of us have been deeply moved by what he has taught us about NTDs – an important but neglected global health issue.


NTDs have been shown to perpetuate the cycle of poverty by impairing physical and cognitive development, decreasing economic productivity, negatively affecting maternal and child health, and socially stigmatizing those that are afflicted. END7 at Rice is taking a three-pronged approach to addressing the need for greater investment in NTD prevention and treatment through committees focused on marketing, fundraising and advocacy. To increase awareness of NTDs in our community, we plan to implement creative events, programming and social media campaigns across campus.  And, through our END7 chapter, we hope to facilitate an exchange of ideas on how to address health disparities in the developing world.

We are particularly concerned about the funding gap for NTD treatment programs. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Neglected Tropical Disease program has been essential in providing NTD treatments around the world – more than 1.2 billion to date – but proposed cuts to the program’s funding in the fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget could stifle and potentially reverse the progress already made by the program to the NTD elimination effort. Having just started Rice’s END7 chapter, we decided that going to DC would teach us valuable lessons we could bring back to Houston and provide us with a greater context for our chapter’s goals.


On the morning of the event, we gathered in a wood-paneled conference room in the Capitol Visitors Center and received a briefing on the global effort against NTDs from leaders of the Global Network, USAID, RTI International and WASH Advocates. Then we split into small groups for our afternoon meetings in congressional offices with each person taking on a particular role. One student would provide some background for their involvement in the END7 campaign: “I’ve been able to travel to countries including Haiti and India, where NTDs are endemic, and have seen firsthand the socioeconomic impacts these diseases have.” Another would carefully lay out the key statistics: “1 in 6 people are infected with an NTD!…more than one billion people in all!…every $1 of taxpayer funding leverages $26 worth of donated drugs, an incredible return on investment!” A third student would paint a holistic picture of the budgetary issue at hand and hammer in the final message: “Funding the USAID NTD Program is critical to solving this global health problem. Maintaining our momentum is essential and we don’t want to lose the good work we’ve done.” Then we answered questions about NTDs and USAID’s work to educate our leaders and their staff about this key global health issue. We concluded our meetings by inviting members of Congress to join either the Senate Caucus on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases or the Congressional Caucus on Malaria and NTDs (one U.S. Representative joined that same day!) and delivering student signatures on END7’s petition to increase NTD funding to $125 million in FY 2016. (We had collected nearly 200 signatures on our campus alone!)


At the end of the day, our time on the Hill brought the conversation surrounding NTDs alive for us in a new way. We learned so much during our time in Washington that we didn’t mind missing a few classes (even though finals were just around the corner!). Advocating alongside leaders of the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases and fellow student supporters of the END7 campaign in meetings in congressional offices opened our eyes to the importance of public policy in the fight against NTDs. As aspiring physicians, we hope to become civically minded professionals who can communicate information effectively to our lawmakers. By engaging in the political process during the END7 Student Advocacy Day, we learned the importance of the student voice in advocating for NTD treatment. We genuinely hope that our message was well-received: the USAID NTD program budget is a best buy in global health and increased funding is needed to allow the progress of USAID’s NTD program to continue. We are excited to see that the 24 Hill meetings students participated in on April 22 have already made an impact, with the addition of a new representative to the Congressional Caucus on Malaria and NTDs and positive signs of increased support from key leaders. As students around the country mobilize around this cause, we hope the U.S. government takes a leading role in prioritizing NTD funding in the FY2016 budget and contributes crucial resources toward the NTD fight. We hope to return to D.C. next year to continue engaging in the political process as citizens, students and future medical professionals dedicated to seeing the end of NTDs.

You can support END7’s advocacy to protect and increase the USAID NTD budget by sending a message to your Senator. Learn more in our infographic and this Buzzfeed post created by student supporters and be sure to check out the END7 Student Advisory Board’s op-ed in the Hill!

You Signed – We Delivered


Members of the END7 team with our petition defending the U.S. NTD budget.  Do you see your name?

Members of the END7 team with our petition defending the U.S. NTD budget. Do you see your name?

The day after the United States government delivered its one billionth treatment for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), we headed up to Capitol Hill to deliver a special message to Congress.

In just eight years, the USAID NTD Program has helped deliver $6.7 billion in donated medicines around the world. But if the President’s $13.5 million budget cut is approved, the progress made against these diseases may falter.

Thousands of people asked Chairwoman Kay Granger and Ranking Member Nita Lowey, of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, to protect funding for NTD treatment.

When we printed all the names, the sheet was over twenty feet long! So long that we attracted curious stares from Congressional staff walking out of the Longworth House Office Building as we posed with the scroll on the steps outside.

We delivered a copy of the petition to Congresswoman Kay Granger’s office, and another went right to the House Appropriations Subcommittee, who is responsible for determining the budget.

Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) are the most common diseases of the world’s poor. NTDs disable and debilitate one in six people worldwide, perpetuating a cycle of poverty that continues from generation to generation.

Worldwide, the USAID NTD program has delivered donated drugs to more than 465 million people in 25 countries, supporting large-scale integrated treatment programs in which entire communities and regions are treated for the most common NTDs all at once. This is one of the most cost-effective and innovative partnerships in global health.

Thanks to you, we’re hopeful that funding for the USAID NTD Program will not be cut but rather expanded.

Watch our photo slideshow to view more pictures from the petition delivery. 

Help Us Protect U.S. Funding for NTDs – a Cause Worth the Investment


In January, we celebrated the largest increase in U.S. funding for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) since 2010.  Yet the party was cut short by the disappointing news that President Obama’s FY15 budget request recommended cutting NTD funding by more than 13%, down to just $86.5 million. Considering the great strides the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) NTD Program has made in improving health around the world, cutting funding now would be a huge mistake.

Will you help protect U.S. funding for NTD programs? Send a letter now.

Investing in NTDs is a smart, cost-effective way to boost the health and economic prosperity of millions of people worldwide. Global health is a fraction of one percent of the federal $1.012 trillion budget – and the budget for NTDs is even smaller. But this tiny amount has a huge impact.


InterAction, an alliance of nonprofits, emphasized this point in their annual Choose to Invest report – a publication which provides members of Congress with funding recommendations for U.S. foreign assistance programs based on experience from the field. Under the leadership of the Global Network and others in the NTD community, InterAction recommended that the U.S. program for NTDs be funded at $125 million in FY15.

Sahr Gando, a miner from Sierra Leone

Sahr Gando, a miner from Sierra Leone

An increase in funding for NTDs means effective programs, like this one in Sierra Leone, will continue to run. Last year, the USAID NTD Program, together with partners, assisted Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health in providing almost half a million people in the country, including Sahr Gando, with life-saving medicines. After receiving treatment, Sahr Gando was able to go back to work and support his family – a task which may have been impossible if treatment never arrived.

Together, we can ensure NTD programs like the one in Sierra Leone are protected – or even improved.

END7 recently launched a campaign to protect NTD funding. Click here to send a letter to Congresswomen Granger and Lowey—longtime advocates of NTDs and leaders of the House appropriations subcommittee that focuses on global health and foreign assistance funding―to thank them for their continued support for NTD programs and urge them to maintain or even increase funding for NTDs in FY15.

Thanks for taking a stand with us.

Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases: A Conversation on Progress



Two years ago, global health leaders convened in London to hold the most significant international meeting on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in history. The event galvanized major commitments from a diverse set of partners to eliminate or control 10 NTDs by 2020 – these commitments are now known as the London Declaration.

This Wednesday on April 2nd, The Global Network will once again join this unique group of partners to discuss progress toward the promises made in 2012.

Since the London Declaration on NTDs, The US, UK, and the World Bank have deepened their commitments, and NTDs are now being prioritized in global health and development agendas. In addition, control, prevention and research efforts for NTDs have expanded.

The London declaration also sparked new collaboration between public and private partners. These partnerships are identifying innovative, concrete solutions for delivering good health and strong economic futures to the world’s poorest people.

The progress we’ve seen since 2012 is also due in large part to the work of endemic countries in drafting and implementing national NTD plans. Through their national plans, countries burdened by NTDs are funding and driving their own solutions.

We invite you to tune into a live webcast of the April 2nd event in Paris. You’ll hear from Bill Gates, Co-chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General, World Health Organization, along with other distinguished panelists.

Feel free to tweet about the event using the hashtag #NTD progress. The live webcast will run from 12:00 to 1:30 EST. To tune in, click here.