Neglected Tropical Diseases, what and why MORE can be done?


More than 1 billion people are affected by neglected tropical diseases. NTDs can cause long term disabilities and deformities which can impact the development and economical status of affected regions. In Mali, more than 12 million people are infected. NTDs  are associated with poverty promoting conditions.Over the past few years, some attention has been given to NTDs however, the majority of resources and awareness are still on the Big three (Malaria, HIV, Tuberculosis). NTDs being parts of the “other diseases” have yet not received the same attention.

Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

( Millenium Development Goal 6)

Organizations such as WHO, the Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are involved in the effort for NTD control. However, substantial financial resources are still needed for implementation of a scaled up control and unfortunately, donors and policy makers have tended to ignore its potential for high impact and effectiveness.  The low cost of drugs  and the potential for integrated control of the seven major NTDS are attractive attributes to NTD control

The rapid package which guarantees quick results at a low cost has been proven to be a powerful tool. Furthermore, there is a potential for control overlap with HIV AIDS or Malaria; a nine fold increase in bed nets distribution has been associated with distribution of NTD drugs.

 In an era where health and economical disparities are increasing, control of NTDs would be an effective way for reducing those inequalities. Policymakers and Donors need to get more involved, think strategically and act upon the fact that all humans deserve a healthy life. An increase in funding and political will in the matter of NTD is necessary. Importance should still be given to high burden diseases; however,  NTDs can also alleviate the disease burden of HIV or Malaria at a low cost.


4 Responses to “Neglected Tropical Diseases, what and why MORE can be done?”

  1. sbfphc Says:

    As the writers have rightfully said, part of the neglect may have come from the fact that the individual diseases may not have attached as high or as visible a burden as the big 3 (HIV, TB, Malaria). But collectively they do pose a major drain on health and development. One of the challenges if the need for integrated delivery of control measures to make for more efficient efforts. There are somewhat different approaches to each disease, which creates problems – ranging from community directed intervention for onchocerciasis to mass drug administration for trachoma to school based interventions for geohelminthes. A common approach that involves the community as a major partner in planning, delivery and evaluation of control interventions will go a long way to reducing the neglect.

  2. msherry4 Says:

    As noted above, the approaches to control of these diseases require different delivery systems,however a notable fact here is that when so many resources are being spent on
    HIV/TB/Malaria treatment and prevention, funding health systems strengthening projects to create the framework within a country that can respond to these diseases and other emerging problems falls by the wayside. When we neglect certain areas of global health and do not invest in structures to prevent, survey, and respond to conditions (even those that are not the most visible) the repercussions are not only growing disparities, as you mentioned, but new emerging disease, as may be the case for “nodding disease” that is spreading in Uganda and Sudan and is linked to onchocerciasis (see link below). Funding basic public health functions of the government, such as surveillance and monitoring systems, vector control, sanitation, and human resource development has the potential to spread out the benefits of aid money across diseases and create a system that can take advantage of the lost cost to treat NTDs and do something about them.

  3. jzuspann Says:

    I think the increase in awareness and funding for NTDs over the past decade is extremely important as we consider ways to reduce morbidity and mortality and improve socio-economic status worldwide. Better recognition of these diseases (generally), is indicative of the direction global health is headed. As a public health student preparing to enter the workforce and make my mark, I find hope in the fact that our scope has broadened and that we are only now actively choosing to address diseases that were previously overlooked and under-prioritized.

    Clearly, the prospect of creating and establishing multi-factorial programs to address not a single disease, but many, is extremely complex. I think we are on the right track with regards to funding, exemplified by the $89 million (a $12 million dollar increase since last year) Congress allocated to NTDs for the 2012 fiscal year, bringing the appropriated 6-year amount to just over $300 million since 2006 (see link below). But, it is important that our commitment does not go unrecognized and that the rest of the world also devote resources to these issues; a singular effort is not a winning one.

    The notion of refining and focusing our aims must be executed within the realm multiplicity. This is inherently complicated because the needs for different diseases vary; for some, we require discovery and development, or more unconventional program implementation mechanisms, while for others (actually most) we need greater policy and advocacy. Perhaps, if we could ‘package’ NTD with similar requirements (i.e. those which need more R&D versus those that already have effective treatments but require better implementation methods), a cleaner more uniform presentation would allow political stakeholders to more easily assess the practicality of our claims (within their budgets) and designate specific resources for NTDs.

  4. diwadt Says:

    While I agree that neglected diseases need much attention in terms of funding, political will from government and commitment from private organizations, the need for community partnership as a critical factor for sustaining control programs cannot be overemphasized. The economic constraints in the communities with the greatest burden of disease require innovative and more a comprehensive approach to NTDs. Recent news about global access to safe water sources, although encouraging, underscores the need for more concerted efforts to tackle the problem. Overall, a realignment of priorities towards basic health programs by local governments in affected areas will go a long way in alleviating the burden of NTDs. Moreover, there are synergies to be gained in integrating NTD programs with other more grounded programs.

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