Leading Global Health Organizations Receive $46.7 Million from Gates Foundation to Integrate Programs Fighting Neglected Tropical Diseases
The fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) received a major boost today with the announcement of five grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation totaling $46.7 million. The grants will support efforts to coordinate and integrate programs to fight key neglected diseases in developing countries. NTDs such as trachoma and hookworm cause severe disability among the world's poorest people and keep generations in a cycle of poverty. In Africa, more than 500 million people are affected by NTDs, and globally, more than two billion individuals are infected with one or more of the parasites or bacteria that cause NTDs.
Today, most control and treatment programs for neglected tropical diseases focus on a single disease, but people in tropical regions usually face more than one serious disease threat, said Dr. Regina Rabinovich, director of Infectious Diseases at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
An integrated approach that addresses multiple diseases at once could reach those in need more efficiently and help save more lives. The overall goal of the new grants is to develop evidence that controlling NTDs in an integrated way has a greater impact on these diseases than the disease-specific strategies currently in use. The five projects aim to demonstrate that an integrated approach improves the performance and efficiency of programs, enhances their coverage, promotes sustainability, and reduces the burden caused by NTDs in Africa. This integrated approach is expected to improve the health of hundreds of thousands of people. Purchasing and delivering drugs to control five of the most devastating NTDs could cost as little as $0.50 per person per year if existing drug delivery programs are brought together. The diseases are trachoma (blinding eye infection), soil-transmitted helminths (hookworm, ascaris, trichuris), onchocerciasis (river blindness), schistosomiasis (snail fever), and lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis). These diseases can be treated safely and effectively with single-dose drugs, given once or twice a year to populations at risk. Studies during the past decade have shown that such low-cost interventions can greatly reduce the burden of NTDs, especially when introduced alongside measures to improve water and sanitation and to control the organisms that transmit disease.
The new grants address the greatest remaining challenge to bring together all the different disease-specific interventions already underway and expand programs to reach all who are in need. The organizations receiving the new funds are: the Task Force for Child Survival and Development, Atlanta, Georgia ($11.7 million); the International Trachoma Initiative, New York ($10 million); The Carter Center, Atlanta, Georgia ($10 million); the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative at Imperial College London ($10 million); and the World Health Organization ($5 million). The five projects are the result of two years of work by the grantees to ensure that each produces the best possible evidence about integration, and that they work together in close coordination. Details of the grants are as follows: The Schistosomiasis Control Initiative will use its $10 million grant to support its core activities at Imperial College London, and to develop and implement a health package that can deliver NTD drugs in Tanzania in the best possible regime. The grant will also be used to co-fund the USAID/NTD control project which will encourage integration of measures to combat NTDs in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Niger, and Uganda.
Up to 40 million people will receive the package of drugs over the next few years, improving their quality of life. The Task Force for Child Survival and Development will use its $11.7 million grant to coordinate operational research aimed at ensuring the success of the ongoing Global Program to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (LF). Currently delivering anti-parasite drugs donated by the pharmaceutical industry to over 500 million people yearly in 46 of the 83 LF-endemic countries, this 6-year old Program faces important challenges to assuring long-term program success and LF elimination. Grant funds will support coordinated research initiatives in more than 20 countries to refine epidemiologic and immunologic tools for enhancing programmatic decision-making, to evaluate potential supplementary vector control and therapeutic strategies for use in especially difficult areas, and to identify innovative, sustainable financing strategies for LF- and NTD-focused global health programs. The International Trachoma Initiative will use its $10 million grant to increase the sustainability and scalability of national neglected disease control programs on a country and global level. ITI and its partners will conduct a study to determine the efficacy of an integrated disease treatment program in Mali for trachoma and lymphatic filariasis (LF) compared to single disease initiatives. This aim of this project is to provide evidence of the effectiveness of combined interventions, as well as the costs, benefits, and impact of integration on the health system and target population. It will benefit other health initiatives by providing a model for future integration efforts. Concurrently, ITI will strengthen advocacy and resource development efforts on behalf of trachoma and other core neglected diseases
The Carter Center will use its $10 million grant to expand its integrated disease prevention assistance in central Nigeria, which currently includes four neglected tropical diseases: river blindness, lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis, and trachoma, all of which can be controlled or eliminated by safe and effective medicines combined with health education. The Center will expand the scope of its activities to add Vitamin A supplementation for young children to the distribution system, as well as further pioneer distribution of long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets to prevent both lymphatic filariasis and malaria. In southeastern Nigeria, where infection with the parasite Loa loa limits treatment options for lymphatic filariasis, the Center will study the feasibility of eliminating lymphatic filariasis with long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets, and integrating with the malaria program. The Center plans to measure the sustainability, cost-effectiveness, and impact of its disease integration efforts, while promoting expansion of integrated efforts throughout Nigeria. The Center will work in collaboration with the Nigeria Ministry of Health, Emory Universityâ€™s Rollins School of Public Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The World Health Organization will use its $5 million grant to support and coordinate integration of NTD programs on a global level. It aims to set standards and provide support for integration globally, including a global platform to assess progress, an integrated data management, monitoring and evaluation system, a renewed effort to improve access to currently non-donated drugs, and the development of common tools such as the recently released guide Preventive Chemotherapy in Human Helminthiasis. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to reduce inequities and improve lives around the world. In developing countries, it focuses on improving health, reducing extreme poverty, and increasing access to technology in public libraries. In the United States, the foundation seeks to ensure that all people have access to a great education and to technology in public libraries. In its local region, it focuses on improving the lives of low-income families. Based in Seattle, the foundation is led by CEO Patty Stonesifer and Co-chairs William H. Gates Sr., Bill Gates, and Melinda French Gates.