Neglected tropical diseases

Report of the Chairman
of the WHO Ad Hoc Strategic and Advisory Group on
Neglected Tropical Diseases

Given by Dr David W.T. Crompton, O.B.E, on behalf of Sir Roy Anderson.

19 APRIL 2007
Madam Director-General, Excellencies and colleagues.

I hope you will note that I am deputizing for Sir Roy Anderson.

The Strategic and Technical Advisory Group on Neglected Tropical Diseases has a most important responsibility – that of being the principal advisory group to the World Health Organization concerning the control of neglected tropical diseases. The Group’s mandate is to advise on global policies and strategies, ranging from research and development to delivery and linkages with other health interventions, and to assist in monitoring the implementation of control of neglected tropical diseases.

Currently, the group has 21 members – each is an expert and an authority in some aspect of neglected tropical diseases, including case management, chemotherapy, epidemiology, public health and vector control – and many work closely with ministries of health in their home countries. Dr Chan, this group is superbly qualified to undertake the mandate you have set for its attention, and is most grateful for the support and expertise of your staff here in Geneva and in the regions.

The group had an intense first meeting during these past two days (17 and 18 April). After being welcomed by the Assistant Director-General Dr David Heymann, Dr Lorenzo Savioli, Director of WHO’s Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases, gave an enlightened and stimulating presentation on WHO’s strategy for the control of neglected tropical diseases. In essence, the strategy has two arms:

  • preventive chemotherapy, and
  • innovative and intensified disease management. Vector control, veterinary public health, health education and environmental sanitation underpin this approach.

This novel yet practical approach to disease control, developed by Dr Savioli and his colleagues, stimulated the group to identify 14 action points for WHO’s attention. The WHO Ad Hoc Strategic and Advisory Group on Neglected Tropical Diseases:

  • Accepts that its primary role is to offer objective advice to WHO based on critical review of the available evidence.
  • Endorses and welcomes the enlightened vision of the department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases as it seeks, with respect to human rights, to make a major contribution to the alleviation of poverty and the promotion of economic development based on (i) intervention packages by means of preventive chemotherapy and transmission control, (ii) the development of innovative and intensified disease management, and (iii) evidence-based advocacy for expansion of NTD control.
  • Gratefully acknowledges the central contribution of the pharmaceutical industry to the control of NTDs and encourages WHO to give due and wider recognition to this fundamental and important commitment to human welfare.
  • Firmly believes that reduced disease burden and economic growth are intimately related, as emphasized in the Report of the Commission for Africa (2005, .31, page 188).
  • Encourages WHO and its Member States to expose more fully the importance of NTDs to global health, poverty alleviation and economic development wherever appropriate, and in particular at the G8 meeting in 2008 in Japan, given the influence of this meeting on resource allocation, policy formulation and furthering the human rights agenda.
  • Proposes that WHO should seek opportunities to engage in discussions with the pharmaceutical industry concerning NTD control, particularly regarding the possibility of expanded donations and logistic and operational capabilities for delivering health care where NTD control is in progress.
  • Stresses the importance for advocacy for NTDs by publicizing successes such as the increased effort towards the eradication of dracunculiasis, onchocerciasis and other such programmes that have secured better health for millions of poor people, and the remaining important challenges including morbidity and disability control.
  • Expresses concern that there is a declining lack of expertise and training in vector control given that so much of NTD is vector borne and that for some NTDs vector control is the sole option.
  • Encourages WHO to support increased, quantitative, health-economic analysis given its importance in policy formulation and resource allocation for NTD control.
  • Firmly endorses the close linkages between successful interventions for NTD control and research in methodology, innovation in delivery, and accurate surveillance and evaluation. Emphasis on the importance of supporting operational research should be made to governments and funding agencies in addition to the need to support discoveries in biomedical research.
  • Requests that WHO appoints at least two more experts to STAG to cover the high importance of health economics and zoonotic diseases as these relate to NTDs.
  • Recommends that WHO establishes a working subgroup of STAG to devise procedures for monitoring the impact of packaged interventions for the control of NTDs.
  • Encourages WHO to incorporate the control of NTDs into the health agendas of regional, subregional and national economic forums.
  • Encourages the exploitation of the opportunity presented by integrated packages for NTD control to strengthen health care systems in poor countries of the world.

The group, having listened to a presentation by Dr Robert Ridley of WHO’s Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, identified five areas of research activity that will support the control of NTDs if the necessary investigation can be undertaken with adequate funding:

  • burden and economic impact of neglected tropical diseases;
  • pharmacovigilance and surveillance;
  • epidemiology and public health;
  • health economics and comparative cost and cost effectiveness;
  • interactions of NTDs with HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

Dr Chan, it has been a special honour for me to make this report to such a distinguished and influential meeting. I hope everyone here will realize that I make it on behalf of a group that is committed and determined to work to reduce the burden of neglected tropical diseases and to stimulate socioeconomic development.

I thank you all for your attention.