Tag Archives: neglected tropical diseases

Reducing Iron Deficiency Anemia Through Treatment for NTDs

 

Photo by Olivier Asselin

Photo by Olivier Asselin

By Global Network NTD Special Envoy Dr. Mirta Roses

Iron deficiency is the most prevalent nutritional disorder in the world. It affects millions of children and women, primarily in developing countries. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 30 percent of the global population is anemic, many because of iron deficiency. Among those in particularly vulnerable situations of poverty, the effects of iron deficiency and anemia are exacerbated by infections with neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) like soil-transmitted helminths (STHs, especially hookworm) and schistosomiasis (or snail fever). These NTDs cause blood loss, which leads to anemia and iron deficiency.

Iron deficiency anemia is known to complicate pregnancy, child birth, and early childhood growth and development. Approximately one-third of all pregnant women in developing countries are infected with hookworm, which contributes to iron deficiency anemia. Infection with genital schistosomiasis causes genital lesions, which have been associated with ectopic or tubal pregnancies, as well as increased risk of HIV infection. Addressing iron deficiency anemia needs to be a main component in all efforts to improve maternal, newborn, and child health (MNCH).

The great news is that there are cost-effective solutions available today that can dramatically lower the rates of iron deficiency and anemia and improve the lives of millions of children and their mothers. The WHO developed a comprehensive strategy to address iron deficiency and anemia, which focuses on three main lines of action:

  • Increasing iron intake, by including iron-rich foods, food fortification and iron supplementation;
  • Controlling infection through immunizations and control programs for malaria, hookworm, and schistosomiasis; and
  • Improving nutritional status through vitamin B12, folate, and vitamin A supplements.

In the region of the Americas, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has been addressing these issues for several years, particularly during Vaccination Weeks. Vaccination Weeks in the Americas (VWA) have contributed significantly to the reduction of morbidity and mortality in all age groups, particularly among children. Since the first VWA was celebrated in 2003, VWA have served as the perfect platform for delivering comprehensive solutions to improving child health. Deworming treatment, iron “sparks” and vitamin A supplements are commonly distributed along with vaccines that protect children against preventable diseases such as measles, rubella, yellow fever, diphtheria, tetanus, polio, and influenza. By facilitating people’s iron intake and distributing deworming medication along with vaccines during vaccination weeks, children and pregnant women in all regions of the world can receive protection against the threats of iron deficiency and anemia.

The potential of using this platform for distributing iron supplements and deworming medication is significant – PAHO estimates that over 400 million people in the Americas have been vaccinated through the VWA. Throughout the world, other regions are also taking advantage of this opportunity through the WHO Regional Offices: the European Region (EURO) began holding its Immunization Week in 2005, followed by the Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMRO) in 2010, the African Region (AFRO) and the Western Pacific Region (WPRO) in 2011, and finally, the South-East Asia Region (SEARO) in 2012. World Immunization Week is now a reality endorsed by the World Health Assembly to be celebrated every year around the third week of April. This major mobilization will carry other key interventions like deworming and iron supplements to every village.

The WHO program to jointly address iron deficiency and anemia is already being implemented in countries that have high levels of iron deficiency and anemia, malaria, and schistosomiasis and STH infections. It is our hope that through programs like this, along with the opportunities provided by vaccination weeks, the health burden caused by iron deficiency anemia will continue decreasing, so that mothers and children can have a real chance at growing healthy and thriving in life.

Dr. Mirta Roses Periago is an NTD Special Envoy for the Global Network and former Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

Project For Awesome with END7

 

END7 is excited to be part of the viral video development 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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=HPeUP_0cGUY

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 couldn’t have said it better ourselves!

In a War Against NTDs and Disease?

By: Alanna Shaikh

I’ve been thinking lately about the language we use to discuss health. Specifically, the way we use imagery of war and violence when we talk about illness. We are talking about battling infections, fighting diseases, combating neglected tropical diseases. It’s a logical way to frame the situation – when we face an infection or a disease, it feels like our bodies are being attacked by a hostile invader. Of course, the first thing we think about is fighting back.

What do we lose, though, by only looking at disease in one way? “Battle” may be a useful metaphor, but is it the only useful metaphor? Does it keep us from thinking innovatively about health and healing?

For one thing, health is a lifelong process. It’s not a series of isolated happenings. It’s a person’s experience of their body from birth to death. You care for your health even when you aren’t sick. “Battle” metaphors keep us from thinking about preventative health.

Another thought – we can, and do, co-exist with all kinds of bacteria and microbes. In fact, we need bacteria for health. Our goal is not to eliminate all germs from our bodies. Our goal is to maintain the right balance. That doesn’t really fit with the theme of health and military readiness.

So, what other ways are there of thinking about health? We could look at our bodies – or our communities – as gardens to be tended. Remove some plants and fertilize others. Or, we could think of health as a picture to be drawn, and illness as a mistake that needs to be erased or painted over. How else could we think about health? What doors would that open in our minds – and our health care?

Alanna Shaikh is an expert in health consulting, writing about global health for UN Dispatch and about international relief and development at Blood & Milk. She also serves as a frequently contributing blogger to ‘End the Neglect.’ The views and opinions expressed by guest bloggers are not necessarily the views and opinions of the Global Network. All opinions expressed here are Alanna’s own and not those of any employer or the US government.

Climate change prompts debate among experts about spread of tropical diseases

This past Monday, an article was published in The Washington Post on the controversial correlation between climate change and tropical diseases. Concern was raised in 2000 by an article written by Harvard biologist Paul R. Epstein, which drew a lot of interest from the scientific community. The article sparked more than 4,000 studies on the changing climate and its effect on disease. Scientists and health professionals were also compelled by a map published in the Scientific American that predicted by 2020 a malaria outbreak could occur on the east coast of the United States and in Europe. This scenario of tropical disease presenting themselves may not be too far-fetched for the US. Last summer, dengue appeared in the Florida Keys, and in the past similar infectious diseases broke out in warmer areas of the States.

Tropical diseases thrive in warm weather. As our climate increasingly becomes warmer, organisms will reproduce at a faster rate, resulting in a greater number of disease-carrying insects. Other theories hypothesize  that climate change could actually reduce disease – some areas may become too hot for insects and vectors to survive, thereby reducing the outbreak of disease.

Click here to read the article in its entirety.