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Success Story Report from World Health Organization, Pan American Health Organization

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Friday, October 07, 2016

Neglected infectious diseases (NID), which include Chagas disease, fascioliasis, soil-transmitted helminthiases, leprosy, leishmaniasis, lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, plague, human rabies transmitted by dogs, schistosomiasis, congenital syphilis, neonatal tetanus and trachoma, affect the poorest of the poor. These diseases impose a nearly indescribable set of burdens on communities and individuals, not only because of the pain and su ering they cause, but also because of the loss of income and the chronic stigma and discrimination associated with their sequelaes, irreversible in many cases. These can include blindness, chronic anemia, tissue loss and physical disfigurement, and permanent disability leading affected families to an even more challenging and limited quality of life-style.

We call these diseases “neglected” because for many years they received insufficient attention, keeping millions from accessing treatment and health care, despite the fact that many treatments are often extremely inexpensive (2 to 4 US cents per dose) or even donated through the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and World Health Organization (WHO); and in some cases they can cure more than one NID at a time. Resolving NID through control and elimination is a public health gesture of human rights and equity, and countries of the Americas are taking the challenge seriously.

Gaining a clear understanding of the public health and social impact of NID, and how to address them, including the commonly-seen coinfections (more than one NID in the same individual), requires government commitment reflected in a robust surveillance and monitoring system that provides precise information, with NID surveillance instruments integrated into wider epidemiological data collection systems operating from the field. It is equally important to ensure that laboratory test results actually confirm clinical diagnosis and are preceded by rapid screening tests available through primary health care systems to facilitate early detection and proper treatment. NID control actions should also be carried out within the context of the strategy for universal health access to health and universal health coverage, so that all at-risk populations have access to services and can receive appropriate care. Government commitment should be accompanied by sound national policies established to address the social and environmental determinants of these diseases and reduce their adverse health and economic consequences driven by stigma and discrimination.

This report shows that a number of countries of the Americas have successfully eliminated transmission of several NID in all or part of their territories, thus showing what each endemic country in the region should and can accomplish. However, for the Americas to reach the regional and global targets to eliminate more than a dozen NID, a concerted e ort must be made now by every endemic country to ensure that robust public health actions reach those who need them most. Actions should be taken to treat all children at risk of contracting soil-transmitted helminth infections; protect every child and pregnant mother from the mosquito bites that transmit malaria and from other insects that transmit Chagas disease and leishmaniasis; treat efficiently and well-timed young children and family members with safe and high quality anti-NID medicines; and that all people who arrive at a hospital with leishmaniasis, schistosomiasis, fascioliasis or blinding trachoma receive proper care so they leave the hospital cured and in good health, and their families can easily follow up their progress with support of local health care units.

All of this requires a comprehensive, cross-cutting approach in which the instruments used to combat NID are combined with integrated management of vectors, field epidemiology, and primary health care. Nevertheless, such efforts will prove inadequate in the long term unless the public health sector works collaboratively with partners and stakeholders to also address the environmental and social determinants that lead to NID emergence and maintenance. A change in behavior by all people who are at risk of contracting these diseases is required, along with regulatory and social changes that create a healthy environment.

We are committed to ensuring that all people have access to the health care they need, when they need it, with quality to contribute to reduce pain, suffering, impairment and disabilities. Through our work, we promote and support the right of everyone to good health. Eliminating priority neglected infectious diseases is a commitment of PAHO and its Member States which is re ected in the new Plan of action for the elimination of NID and the post-elimination actions for the period 2016 – 2022.

By bringing together countries, communities and other partners and supporters, we intend to progress more quickly and intelligently, to sustain the work that has been carried out and reach our elimination goals. I recognize our countries and their leading e orts against NID through this publication, and encourage them to give the final push for the elimination of NID, once and for all, from the Americas.

Source: ReliefWeb
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3.3 from 3 votes
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