By: Alanna Shaikh
The public discourse around the neglected tropical diseases focuses almost entirely on the developing world. We talk about the NTD belt in Africa, helminthes in Asia, Chagas in Latin America. We hardly ever, though, think about at the NTDs in the wealthy world. What do they look like, then, in the places we don’t expect them? According to Peter Hotez and Meredith Gurwith, not great. In a July 2011 article published in the Public Library of Science, they look at Europe’s NTD burden, and the results are frustrating but illuminating.
It’s an interesting view on our new world of wealth distribution. We’re moving away from rich and poor countries. What we have, instead, are rich and poor communities. And the poor communities of Europe, just like the poor communities of Africa – or the United States – are afflicted with neglected tropical diseases. They are truly diseases of poverty and not geography. More than 20 percent of the population of Europe – 165 million people – lives below poverty thresholds, and that’s where you find the NTDs.
Eastern Europe and Turkey bear the biggest helminth burden, high enough to cause concerns about cognitive development among children. This stems from several causes. They’re the poorest countries in Europe, and they’ve faced the most hardship. The Balkans lost ground on health care during the extensive regional conflict, and the former Soviet bloc countries suffered as they tried to develop health structures without the leadership and financial support of Moscow. Continue reading