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Strategy for diseases of poverty

2nd July 2007

A World Health Organisation (WHO)-backed initiative says it will do more to sponsor research programmes into infectious diseases that affect the world's poorest people.

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The Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, which has already been in existence for 30 years, wants new drugs, delivery strategies and enhanced research capacities in countries where parasitic tropical diseases are endemic.

The 10-year plan addresses some of the emerging disease challenges facing developing countries, such as TB-HIV co-infection.

Over the coming decade, TDR will focus on addressing key bottlenecks in getting health care treatments to poor and remote populations, and fostering research and policy leadership in countries where these diseases create significant health problems.

"If we want better health to work as a poverty reduction strategy, we must reach the poor. This is the acid test, and this is where we are failing," WHO Director General Margaret Chan told a recent meeting which tracks the progress of the TDR. "I am very glad to see TDR move into this new territory."

The initiative is backed by four sponsors - UNDP, UNICEF, the World Bank and WHO - as well as 30 representatives of governments of developed and developing countries.

It has sponsored research that led to the control of leprosy, onchocerciasis (river blindness), Chagas disease, lymphatic filariasis and visceral leishmaniasis, diseases which the body has now targetted for regional, and, ultimately, global, elimination.

TDR also initiated and sponsored the first large-scale field trials of insecticide-impregnated bednets in the mid 1990s, demonstrating their life-saving value in malaria control.

The main focus of the plan will be access to primary health treatments for poor people.

It will support African scientists to explore how community-directed systems could be used to deliver essential primary health care interventions like insecticide-treated bednets, home-based malaria treatment, TB diagnosis and treatment, and Vitamin A supplements.

Central to the project will be a new web-based knowledge management platform, TropIKA.net.

 

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