Partners in Leprosy Action
This is a profile of one of 23 social innovations selected for further study and promotion. TDR has spearheaded the Social Innovation in Initiative (SIHI), a collaboration with the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Cape Town, and the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford University.
The Philippines has the highest number of new leprosy cases detected in the Western Pacific Region over the past decade. Although elimination has been achieved when counting the entire population, there are pockets of high prevalence, which fail to meet the elimination criteria, especially in the Northern Luzon region. Maintaining early detection and treatment is essential if the disease is to remain contained. Leprosy also still carries severe stigma, and people who have (or have had) leprosy face discrimination and social marginalisation.
Partners in Leprosy Action (PILA) is a strategy implemented by the Philippines Leprosy Mission (PLM). The goal is to serve all those affected by leprosy -- improving awareness, education and care and reducing stigma associated with the disease. Training and resources are provided for district health officials, public sector workers and patients. The Department of Education involves schools in the screening and education of communities regarding skin health and leprosy. Using ‘skin health’ as an entry point rather than ‘leprosy control’, PILA encourages community members to voluntarily consult for any skin disorder without the fear and anxiety attached to leprosy.
The PILA case study shows how community-based organizations play a unique role in supporting the last steps to full disease elimination. Beyond delivering key services, these organizations can facilitate the integration and coordination of all system stakeholders in order to leverage appropriate skills and resources. It also demonstrates the value in engaging different sectors to raise awareness and knowledge about different health conditions, e.g. utilising the education system to provide information to school children, which can then be transferred to the household level. Increasing awareness and improving skills among frontline health workers, through regular training and engagement, helps improve the identification and treatment of neglected tropical diseases.