Tag Archives: India

Following the Footprints to an India Free of Lymphatic Filariasis


India is embarking on the largest mass drug administration in history against lymphatic filariasis (LF), also called elephantiasis or filaria, a painful, disabling and disfiguring neglected tropical disease (NTD).

A shocking 500 million people are at risk of infection in India. But if the government expands its efforts to treat every community at risk, it could eliminate LF from the country as early as next year.

To support this ambitious effort, India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare launched a campaign titled Hathipaon Mukt Bharat (Filaria Free India).

Giant Footprints!, a video created by the Global Network, Ogilvy and Little Lamb Productions, is raising awareness of this campaign and encouraging all Indians at risk to take the preventive medicine.

India is on the verge of success. Be a part of the story by sharing the video today.

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Achieving Global Health Impact through Strategic Communications



(L to R) Richard Hatzfeld, Sabin Vaccine Institute; David Harris, independent creative consultant; Elizabeth Bass, Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science

In a world where politics, ideology and values sometimes outweigh evidence, how can global health professionals better communicate what they do in order to achieve impact?  Global Network’s Managing Director, Dr. Neeraj Mistry, addressed this question at last week’s American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) Annual Meeting. His panel discussion, titled “Using Communications to Elevate Neglected Tropical Diseases as a Policy Priority,” featured insights from Richard Hatzfeld, communications director for the Sabin Vaccine Institute; David Harris, an independent creative consultant who helped develop the ideas behind the END7 campaign; and Elizabeth Bass, director of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science.

ARK_8895Elizabeth began by stressing the importance of knowing your audience and goals. While some stakeholders, including policy makers, may be familiar with your issue, it is important to understand where they are coming from so messaging can be adjusted accordingly. She also emphasized the importance of connecting with people. Each and every one of us has a unique background – whether we’re a cancer survivor, an animal lover, a mother or an athlete. If your audience knows more about who you are as a person, they are more likely to trust you and take what you say seriously, she said. Lastly, Elizabeth clued the audience in on what she sees as the “wonder drug” of communications: storytelling. While statistics can cause an audience’s eyes to glaze over, stories have the power to grab an audience’s interest, evoke emotion and make people care.

Further emphasizing the importance of storytelling, David Harris discussed creative communication campaigns that have worked. Every day, our brains are inundated with hundreds of advertising messages – so an engaging and creative story is necessary to stand out and cut through the noise. He first used the example of the Wise Child Trust – a largely unknown charity (at the time) that is working to end child trafficking. Through David’s innovative marketing campaign, happy and healthy school children in the UK were encouraged to write their own story about love, hope or friendship. These stories stood in stark contrast to the terrible stories of trafficked children. The stories of the school children were compiled into a book and were then sold to parents and the community –with all proceeds going towards Wise Child Trust. This campaign was hugely successful and used the power of storytelling to raise an unprecedented amount of awareness and funds for Wise Child Trust.


David also discussed the Global Network’s END7 campaign and its “How to Shock a Celebrity” video which has gained more than 600,000 views. The concept of “END7” has been effective, explained David, because of its specific and time-bound goal: End 7 neglected tropical diseases by 2020. The campaign’s tagline, “together we can see the end,” is inclusive and encourages everyone to be a part of the solution. In addition, he said, the campaign has a strong call to action – donate just 50 cents to treat and protect one child. was hugely successful and used the power of storytelling to raise an unprecedented amount of awareness and funds for Wise Child Trust.

ARK_8914Next, Richard provided an overview of a communications campaign in India which will raise awareness of an upcoming mass drug administration for lymphatic filariasis (LF). He discussed the unique challenges of the campaign, which include messaging to diverse audiences, encouraging compliance and reaching media dark areas without access to television or radio. Richard emphasized that an effective communications campaign can overcome these issues and support the Indian government in their effort to eliminate LF by 2015.

The remarks provided by Neeraj, Elizabeth, David and Richard drew needed attention to the importance of communications and storytelling in the field of global health. Through effective and smart communications, the global health community can have an even bigger impact on the world’s most vulnerable communities.

A New Report Reveals What is behind Maharashtra State’s Reduction in Stunting


Photo by Esther Havens

Photo by Esther Havens

In 2005, an alarming 39 percent of children were stunted in Maharashtra state, the second largest state in India with a population of over 100 million people. By 2012, a survey revealed that this number dropped to 24 percent among children under the age of two. A recent report published by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) examines why this unprecedented reduction in stunting occurred.

Stunting is a condition that causes irreversible damage and occurs when a child does not receive the right kind of food and nutrients. Stunted children often have weaker immune systems leaving them more susceptible to infections and making them five times more likely to die from diarrhea. Infections caused by neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are closely linked to malnutrition. Intestinal worms, for example, are among the underlying causes of stunting, anemia, loss of key nutrients like Vitamin A and iron, and overall poor nutritional status. Not only does India have more children suffering from NTDs than any other country in the world, they are home to the highest number of stunted children under the age of five.

Historically, Maharashtra state’s high levels of income inequality have contributed to malnutrition and stunting in children. Even though Maharashtra is one of the wealthiest states in India, children who are stunted are not benefiting from this growth.  Stunting impairs a child’s growth and perpetuates poor health and nutrition, preventing them from growing into their full physical and economic potential. Children who are unhealthy and lack access to proper diets, safe water, healthcare and sanitation facilities are trapped in a perpetual cycle of disease and poverty.

According to the authors, a number of key factors, working in tandem, contributed to Maharashtra state’s reduction in stunting. The launch of the state’s Nutrition Mission and the National Rural Health Mission created strong political will to improve nutritional status of young children. Because NTDs can contribute to malnutrition, Maharashtra state’s Nutrition Mission Action Plan ensured that deworming tablets were distributed to children at risk for intestinal worm infections.  And promisingly, the number of children receiving deworming treatments more than doubled, increasing from 8 percent to 19 percent. Maharashtra’s efforts towards addressing NTDs is a positive step in the right direction to lower the occurrence of stunted children and subsequent malnutrition among young children.

IDS also noted that other important factors in the reduction of stunting include: a favorable political, social and economic environment; strong economic growth; robust poverty reduction performance; and improvements in women’s empowerment and health. In the same manner, addressing NTDs requires a multi-pronged approach. In addition to deworming, creating an enabling environment for children will amplify the possibilities for the future, particularly by simultaneously improving access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene and delivering key nutrition interventions like Vitamin A alongside deworming treatments.

While the rapid decline in stunting in Maharashtra state was unique, we congratulate them on embracing a comprehensive approach to tackling this issue and remain hopeful that other states endemic for NTDs and malnutrition will feel encouraged to follow their lead.

Abhishek Bachchan Visits with Patients Suffering from NTDs


Abhishek Bachchan

Bollywood celebrity Abhishek Bachchan visitis a community health center in Odisha, Bhubaneswar, India. (Photo by Vivek Singh)

Shortly after Bollywood star Abhishek Bachchan joined the END7 campaign, we travelled together to Odisha (formally known as Orissa), near India’s east coast, to visit the Banamalipur Community Center. Here, the Church’s Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA) is providing community-based care for patients suffering from, and the community at risk for, lymphatic filariasis (LF) and other neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Through the work of volunteers and community health workers, the program currently serves more than 20,000 patients with LF and works in partnership with the government to support the distribution of medicine to everyone in the region to protect them from NTDs.

Abhishek met with patients who were suffering from chronic LF, and listened to their stories and experiences. They spoke of the previous hardship caused by the disease and, through the staff and services, had experienced considerable improvement in their quality of life. Yet, among many of them, there was a tangible sadness, which resulted from the stigma and ostracization caused by the disease: in a community where marriage of children is seen as a fulfillment of parenting, many of their daughters remained unmarried because suitors feared that the diseases was genetic.

LF is just one of the NTDs that can be prevented with annual medication. Once the limbs have swollen, there is no cure for LF but further disability can be prevented with proper care. CASA health workers explained and demonstrated morbidity management and disability prevention for patients with LF, which included proper washing and drying techniques, exercise massage and elevation of limbs. Abhishek was moved to join in, helping the CASA staff to wash the limbs of LF patients. Later, he took albendazole pills, one of the two medicines taken to treat and prevent early LF infection.

This visit only confirmed that there is more work to be done. While we control and eliminate these debilitating diseases, we must also improve the mental and social well-being of those suffering from NTDs. This goes beyond medicine and requires engagement of families, local community organizations, and the media and entertainment industry. With the help of organizations like CASA, and champions like Abhishek, we can take a holistic approach to addressing NTDs.

Of the 1.4 billion people in the world affected by NTDs, more than a third live in India. Global progress on NTDs hinges on India’s efforts and successes.

India is a historic leader in ending some of the most devastating diseases of our time, including smallpox and guinea worm, and most recently, polio. Now, India has the opportunity to achieve another significant public health milestone: the control and elimination of five NTDs.