Research In Brief: Article Examines Aid for Neglected Tropical Diseases

AUGUST 26, 2014 – A recent article by a Georgetown University professor looks at the progress in aid to combat neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) during the past five years.

Bernhard Liese, MD, DSc, MPH, chair of the Department of International Health at the School of Nursing & Health Studies, is corresponding author of the manuscript “Development Assistance for Neglected Tropical Diseases: Progress Since 2009,” which appeared in International Health, an Oxford University Press journal.

He co-authored the article with international health alumna Lyubov Teplitskaya (NHS’12) and Natalia Houghton (G’14), who is currently pursuing a master’s degree in global health at Georgetown.

‘Umbrella Term’

NTDs is an “umbrella term for a diverse group of debilitating infections that represent the most common afflictions for 2.7 billion people” who live on less than $2 a day, according to the authors.

Examples of these diseases are lymphatic filariasis – or elephantiasis, onchocerciasis – or river blindness, soil-transmitted helminthiases, schistosomiasis, trachoma, and dracunculiasis – or Guinea worm disease.

“Major efforts have recently re-focused attention on NTDs, including structured advocacy by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, technical and political support by [the World Health Organization] and large-scale drug donation programs by pharmaceutical companies,” the authors note.

Progress Since 2009

This new study highlights positive changes since 2009, notably in drug donation programs by pharmaceutical manufactures and an effort of more than 75 public and private partners working to control or eliminate the 10 most common NTDs.

However, during the years 2007-2012, the authors found no increase in official development assistance (ODA).  ODA data is collected by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Creditor Reporting System and represents donation information from the 22 member countries of OECD’s development assistance committee (DAC) and, on a voluntary basis, from non-DAC countries and multilateral agencies.

“The major advocacy efforts for NTDs, and the generous, large drug donations are a huge step forward, but the international donor community is now called upon to follow-up and substantially increase its share of ODA to provide an integrated and holistic approach to NTDs in which [mass drug administration] could be combined with other necessary interventions such as vector control, health systems support, morbidity management and community empowerment,” they write.

The authors report no competing interests.

By Bill Cessato