Washington, DC (PRWEB) January 29, 2009
Stating that neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) not only promote poverty but also destabilize communities, former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson and Sabin Vaccine Institute President Peter Hotez call upon the public health and foreign policy communities to embrace medical diplomacy and NTD control as a means to combat terrorism in a new article published today in the open-access journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.
In "Waging Peace through Neglected Tropical Disease Control: A US Foreign Policy for the Bottom Billion," Thompson and Hotez make a strong case for the new Obama Administration to engage in medical diplomacy as a critical piece of its foreign policy agenda. Defining medical diplomacy as "winning the hearts and minds of people in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and elsewhere by exporting medical care, expertise and personnel to help those who need it most," the authors state that strengthening US efforts to eliminate NTDs would help to end the cycle of poverty in areas of conflict throughout the globe and to promote peace and economic prosperity.
Hotez and Thompson cite recent scientific analysis of the adverse impact of NTDs on agricultural productivity, education, future wage earnings, and the health of mothers and children in low-income countries that demonstrates the "multiple and intimate connections between pervasive NTDs and conflict." They note that many diplomatic "hot spots" for the US--in terms of their volatility and current or recent track record of conflict, or because of their deteriorated relationships with the US Government--exhibit high rates of NTD infection, with up to 50% of the populations living in conflicted areas suffering from one or more NTDs.
"As the most common afflictions in the world's areas of conflict and strife, and among the most common bases for diminished agricultural productivity, food insecurity, ignorance, and community destabilization, NTD control represents an obvious target for medical diplomacy," stated Dr. Peter Hotez M.D., Ph.D., F.A.A.P., President of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, Distinguished Research Professor and Walter G. Ross Professor & Chair of Microbiology, Immunology, and Tropical Medicine at The George Washington University School of Medicine. "NTD control is also highly cost-effective, with treatment of the seven most common NTDs averaging a remarkable 50 cents per person, per year."
"Acts of compassion destroy the rhetoric of terrorists, and the world responds best to America when it provides medical humanitarian relief to the world's war-torn and poorest regions," Tommy Thompson, Global Ambassador of the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases stated. "President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have a unique opportunity to engage in effective medical diplomacy strategies aimed at eliminating NTDs and fostering global prosperity and stability."
NTDs are devastating, debilitating and deadly diseases that impact 1.4 billion people living on less than $1.25 a day. Controlling NTDs is considered a best buy in public health because of its high return on investment and low cost. In sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere, control or elimination of several NTDs can be achieved for approximately US $0.50 per person, per year--a fraction of the costs for antiretroviral treatments for HIV/AIDS or direct observed therapy of tuberculosis. The authors note that, "in practical terms, this means that the entire at-risk populations of war-torn areas and areas of conflict in sub-Saharan Africa could be treated for one year at roughly the cost of one or two F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets."
"The staggering rates of NTD infection that occur largely in problematic countries suggest a vital role for medical intervention against these diseases as an important diplomatic tool. Embracing highly cost-effective NTD control measures would be a sign that the US firmly understands its place in the world and its responsibility to its founding principles and values," Thompson and Hotez concluded.
Global Network Ambassador Tommy Thompson will deliver a speech on medical diplomacy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. on January 27th at 3 pm.
About Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases
The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, headquartered at the Sabin Vaccine Institute, is committed to raising the profile of neglected tropical diseases and leveraging international resources to end suffering and death through proven-effective, low-cost treatments.
Members of the Global Network: The Earth Institute at Columbia University, Helen Keller International, International Trachoma Initiative, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, and The Task Force for Child Survival and Development.
About Sabin Vaccine Institute
Sabin Vaccine Institute is a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing human suffering from infectious and neglected diseases. Through its efforts in vaccine research, development and advocacy, Sabin works to provide greater access to vaccines and essential medicines for millions stuck in pain, poverty and despair. Founded in 1993 in honor of Dr. Albert B. Sabin, discoverer of the oral polio vaccine, the Sabin works with prestigious institutions, scientists, medical professionals, and organizations to provide short and long-term solutions that result in healthier individuals, families and communities around the globe.