As END7 expands its outreach to students, we’d like to highlight a different young person every month who has joined our campaign. We are proud to share a reflection from our October Student of the Month, Katy Gorentz, who has been a student advocate for END7 since her freshman year at the University of Notre Dame. After three years of organizing advocacy and fundraising events to fight diseases she had never encountered, Katy experienced the impact of NTDs for herself last summer in Sierra Leone. Here’s her reflection on why she is part of END7:
“As a premed student at the University of Notre Dame, I have had many options for getting involved in health-related clubs. When I stumbled across the ND Fighting NTDs booth at the Activities Fair freshman year, I was impressed at the focus and passion of the students involved. I signed up that night and have been involved ever since!
Looking back I can now see the impact that getting involved in NTD advocacy has had on the course of my own education. Learning about this complex global issue has made me assess my own goals as a future doctor and gain new perspectives that challenge the simple ways in which I used to view health and medicine. END7 gives students the opportunity to learn about the challenges of global health, support one major solution we have at hand, and inspire others to action. It’s a cause that anyone can be passionate about, from a doctor, to an economist, to a young student looking for inspiration.
The impact of NTDs on my college career became much more personal when I experienced this issue from a different perspective this past summer: the patient’s point of view!
While conducting research on disability in Sierra Leone, I contracted hookworm. I soon recognized the itchy red lines creeping across my feet and up my ankles from pictures of hookworm I had seen in ND Fighting NTDs factsheets and posters, but the series of nurses I encountered did not. It took me weeks to find a doctor who recognized my hookworm and gave me albendazole to treat it. Later, when chatting with a nurse from one of the clinics I visited, she confided that the clinic simply did not have the medication available and wanted to find some before diagnosing the tell-tale lines that were spreading rapidly before my eyes.
The experience drove home the facts about NTDs I had repeated for years: the diseases are so easy to contract, yet finding treatment can be far too difficult – but once you take it, the medication is fast-acting and effective. My experienced echoed the facts I had learned from END7, and made it all the more clear that mobilizing the political will and financing to get NTD medications where they need to be is incredibly important.
Now, having experienced an NTD firsthand, I am even more committed to the fight against NTDs! This past week, I have been participating in NTD Awareness Week at Notre Dame, ND Fighting NTDs’ annual campaign to raise NTD awareness on campus and get our peers involved in fundraising and educational events – here’s a picture from our popular Bagel & Brochure giveaway Tuesday morning. Now, with END7’s new personal fundraising pages, I can share my reason for supporting END7 with my friends and family online, too. I just created my own fundraising page, and I am excited for the opportunity to spread the word and involve even more people in the fight against NTDs!”
We are so thankful for the commitment that Katy and the other leaders of ND Fighting NTDs have made to this cause. If you are ready to get your school involved in END7’s work, contact student coordinator Emily on Facebook or at Emily.Conron@sabin.org to learn how you can get started!
Update: Were happy to share the news that Shelly Xie was recently awarded the 2013 ASTMH Communications Award
There are several ways to describe the impact of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) on millions of families worldwide. But this may be one of the most artful and poetic we’ve seen.
Last week, medical student and artist Shelly Xie showcased two sand animations that thoughtfully illustrated stories of families infected with hookworm and Chagas disease at the Pan American Health Organization’s (PAHO) 52nd Directing Council. Shelly’s poetic narration, mixed with moving music and sand drawings, gave these complex stories life.
Shelly’s first animation tells the story of a Brazilian family. Maria, Antonio and their daughter Francisca contract hookworm – a parasitic disease which leaves them sick, tired and unable to work, go to school or take care of their crops. This story is illustrative of the broader burden NTDs have on millions of Latin American and Caribbean families. Over 13.8 million preschool and 31 million school age children are at risk of hookworm and other parasitic intestinal worms.
Shelly’s second animation tells the story of a young couple in Argentina who contracts Chagas disease. After being bit by the Triatomine bug, both the husband and wife become too sick to work and take care of their livestock. Even worse, the mother is expecting a child who now has a chance of contracting Chagas disease as well. After a week, the couple begins to feel better – but what they don’t know is the side-effects of Chagas disease could lead to an enlarged colon and esophagus, or even heart failure in the years to come. It is estimated that 10 to 11 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean are living with Chagas, Shelly explains.
Shelly’s animations are part of PAHO’s Art Research Project – a program that works with different sectors of society to show how we can all have an impact on global health efforts. Her unique and artistic messaging has the power to include an even wider audience in NTD advocacy and awareness efforts worldwide.
Re-posted with permission from Peter McMinn of the Lowy Institute for International Policy.
The relationship between Timor-Leste and Indonesia has improved steadily since the independence referendum in 1999. Indonesia is now one of Timor-Lestes key trade partners and has strongly supported its application for membership of ASEAN. The two countries are also working toward settling border disputes that have been unresolved for many years.
This mood of cooperation is also working in the health sector.
Since Timor-Leste regained its independence, public health officials in Dili and Indonesian West Timor have faced substantial challenges in regard to the control of tropical infections which have an enormous impact on the health of already marginalised populations. Diseases such as lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis), intestinal worm infections (especially hookworm) and yaws are highly prevalent across the island of Timor and cause chronic disfigurement, disability and death.
Elimination of these diseases can be achieved by mass drug administration (MDA) to affected populations (target 75-80%) annually for a period of 5-7 years. Such a program requires high levels of coordination and cooperation by health officials and the engagement of affected communities.
Efforts to free the developing world from these and other tropical infections received a boost in 1998, when the World Health Assembly resolved to eliminate them globally by 2020. The chances of doing so were greatly enhanced when a consortium of pharmaceutical companies pledged to donate the drugs required to treat these infections free of charge to all countries participating in the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Elimination Program.
Many countries have now commenced this program with support from the WHO, pharmaceutical companies, the Gates Foundation and other donors. However, it has not begun in Timor-Leste and has been interrupted in Indonesian Timor due to low capacity in the health workforce and a lack of donor support. The situation has been complicated by the recurrence of conflict in Timor-Leste and the logistical challenges involved in bringing together teams to work across national borders.
In December 2011 the Timor-Leste Minister of Health signed Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) on cross-border cooperation for public health with the Indonesian Minister of Health in Jakarta and with the Governor of Nusa Tengara Timur (NTT) Province in Kupang, West Timor, both vital steps in implementing the program. Under the latter MOU it was agreed that the Government of Timor-Leste and the Indonesian Provincial Government of NTT would cooperate to monitor and implement shared public health challenges. This cross-border cooperation is particularly important for the East Timorese enclave of Oecusse, which is completely surrounded by Indonesian territory.
The program is scheduled to commence in 2014. A senior public health expert from the Ministry of Health in Jakarta has recently assisted the Timor-Leste Ministry of Health to develop a detailed program implementation plan that includes cross-border cooperation on disease surveillance and information sharing on the progress of program implementation. Furthermore, a public health official from NTT will be invited to join the Task Force and vice versa.
Cross-border cooperation will be critically important during the post-MDA enhanced surveillance program to verify disease elimination and to ensure that Timor Island can be certified free of these diseases by the WHO in the shortest possible time. Such collaboration represents a practical example of cross-border cooperation that is of mutual public health benefit for Indonesia and Timor-Leste.
Sydney Southeast Asia Centre leads a program to help Timor-Lestes health ministry implement the Lymphatic Filariasis, Hookworm and Yaws Elimination Program.
Project for Awesome. The Project for Awesome is an annual event that sprung out of various YouTube communities to support charities. Every year since 2007, thousands of people post videos to YouTube promoting charities on December 17th. They come together as a community to promote those videos and raise money.
Project for Awesome is an inspirational movement that shows END7 supporters that they can use their voice as well as their creativity in helping to end NTDs. END7 wants to thank two individuals that showed their support for END7. Isabella Bernal and Erica Crouch both made videos explaining their support for eliminating NTDs. We couldnt have said it better ourselves!