Controlling neglected tropical diseases may be key to US foreign policy

Jan 27, 2009

Stating that neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) not only promote poverty but also destabilize communities, former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson and Sabin Vaccine Institute President Peter Hotez call upon the public-health and foreign-policy communities to embrace medical diplomacy and NTD control as a means to combat terrorism in an article published January 27 in the open-access journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

In "Waging Peace through Neglected Tropical Disease Control: A US Foreign Policy for the Bottom Billion," Thompson and Hotez make a strong case for the new U.S. presidential administration to engage in medical diplomacy as a critical piece of its foreign policy agenda. Defining medical diplomacy as "the winning of hearts and minds of people in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and elsewhere by exporting medical care, expertise, and personnel to help those who need it most," the authors say that strengthening U.S. efforts to eliminate NTDs would help end the cycle of poverty in areas of conflict and promote peace and economic prosperity.

The authors cite recent scientific analysis of the adverse impact of NTDs on agricultural productivity, education, future wage earnings, and the health of mothers and children in low-income countries, demonstrating the "multiple and intimate connections between pervasive NTDs and conflict." They note that many nations that are considered diplomatic "hot spots" for the United States exhibit high rates of NTDs, with up to 50% of their populations suffering from one or more NTD.

"As the most common afflictions in the world's areas of conflict and strife, and among the most common bases for diminished agricultural productivity, food insecurity, ignorance, and community destabilization, NTDs represent an obvious target for medical diplomacy," says Hotez, President of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, Distinguished Research Professor and Walter G. Ross Professor & Chair of Microbiology, Immunology, and Tropical Medicine at The George Washington University School of Medicine. "NTD control is also highly cost-effective, with treatment of the seven most common NTDs averaging a remarkable 50 cents per person, per year."

"Acts of compassion destroy the rhetoric of terrorists, and the world responds best to America when it provides medical humanitarian relief to the world's war-torn and poorest regions," says former Secretary Thompson, Global Ambassador of the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases. "President [Barack] Obama and Secretary of State [Hillary] Clinton have a unique opportunity to engage in proven effective medical diplomacy strategies aimed at eliminating NTDs and fostering global prosperity and stability."

NTDs are devastating, debilitating, and deadly diseases that affect 1.4 billion people living on less than US$1.25 a day. Control or elimination of several NTDs, including ascariasis, trichuriasis, lymphatic filariasis, trachoma, and onchocerciasis, can be achieved for a fraction of the cost of treatment for HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis. The authors note that, "in practical terms, this means that the entire at-risk populations of war-torn areas and areas of conflict in sub-Saharan Africa could be treated for one year at roughly the cost of one or two F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets."

Citation: Hotez PJ, Thompson TG (2009) Waging Peace through Neglected Tropical Disease Control: A US Foreign Policy for the Bottom Billion. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 3(1): e346. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0000346 dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0000346

Source: Public Library of Science

Explore further: 'Ebola will return', veteran scientist warns

Related Stories

NSA winds down once-secret phone-records collection program

8 hours ago

The National Security Agency has begun winding down its collection and storage of American phone records after the Senate failed to agree on a path forward to change or extend the once-secret program ahead of its expiration ...

Pipeline that leaked wasn't equipped with auto shut-off

9 hours ago

The pipeline that leaked thousands of gallons of oil on the California coast was the only pipe of its kind in the county not required to have an automatic shut-off valve because of a court fight nearly three ...

Uber drivers fined in Hungary

9 hours ago

The Hungarian tax authority fined Uber drivers in its first probe against the ride-sharing service which the economy ministry said Saturday "ignores passenger safety" and must be made to follow regulations.

Recommended for you

'Ebola will return', veteran scientist warns

4 hours ago

Congolese expert Jean-Jacques Muyembe may be little known to the public, but he has been one of the world's top Ebola investigators since the first epidemic erupted in central Africa in 1976.

Score IDs patients with upper extremity DVT at low risk

19 hours ago

(HealthDay)—For patients with upper-extremity deep vein thrombosis (DVT), six easily available factors can be used to create a score that identifies those at low risk of adverse events during the first ...

Combined drug treatment combats kidney disease

May 29, 2015

A recent discovery by drug researchers whereby coupling specific cell membrane receptors has altered kidney cell function has triggered a re-think of how to treat chronic kidney disease (CKD) more effectively.

Active substance targeting dreaded hospital germs

May 29, 2015

In the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF), scientists have conducted clinical studies on an active substance against the dreaded hospital pathogen Staphylococcus aureus: a highly effective protein from bacteriophages ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.