Elimination and leprosy control programmes FAQ
Will the attainment of the goal of elimination mean the end of leprosy work?
Eliminating leprosy as a public health problem will not mark the end of leprosy work. A considerable amount of work will go on in the post-elimination phase, particularly in the field of disability prevention, rehabilitation and in ensuring maintenance of skills for diagnosing and treating the small number of new cases that will continue to occur.
Even though most of the MDT services will be integrated within the general health services, an effective referral system needs to be maintained at an appropriate level to deal with problems which may need specialized care. Leprosy research itself, particularly basic research, is likely to merge within general mycobacterial research.
The current research efforts into the immune response to M. leprae and construction of the genome map of M. leprae , may yield simple tools to prevent nerve damage, monitor infection in the community and provide the means for primary prevention.
Is there not a risk that over-optimistic expectations for the elimination of leprosy might dilute the priority at present accorded to leprosy control and leprosy research, and might even undermine the fund-raising potential of various agencies, particularly of the nongovernmental organizations?
Setting a goal of elimination does not mean that the international health community should become complacent, nor should early success of the strategy encourage anyone to lower their guard. On the contrary, efforts should be further intensified to meet the remaining challenges and bring this worthy and historic task to fruition.
Nor should initial success lead to any dilution of the support for leprosy elimination activities, whether among national governments of endemic countries or among nongovernmental organizations. The messages that go out to the various agencies concerned and to the public should make this clear.