Adler School Summit the First of its Kind to Address Neglected Tropical Disease in the United States

Share Article

Leading Researchers, Practitioners, Policy Makers Call for Increased Surveillance of Global Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) and Neglected Infections of Poverty (NIP) in the U.S.

Leading tropical disease experts convened late last month at the Adler School's Institute on Social Exclusion (ISE) to address the challenge of Neglected Infections of Poverty (NIP) in the United States. It was the first gathering of its kind, bringing together researchers, medical practitioners and policy makers to focus on a largely hidden group of preventable, easily-cured or prevented parasitic, bacterial and congenital infections that cause a wide range of health issues, especially among poor Americans. The attending experts identified active surveillance as an important need.

"This was a seminal meeting," said participant Marian McDonald, Dr. P.H., associate director for minority and women's health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s National Center for Preparedness, Detection & Control of Infectious Diseases
in Atlanta. "These infections of poverty are overlooked in this country, and the conference could well be the first step towards building the momentum necessary to adequately address these diseases."

If Americans are aware of tropical diseases like chagas, dengue fever, leptospirosis and cytomegalovirus (CMV), they typically associate them with the Third World, but there is also a need to address these diseases within the United States, particularly in poor urban areas.

Conference participants agreed that the major challenge facing efforts to deal with these diseases is surveillance. Medical schools in the U.S. typically devote less than ten hours of training to Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) and NIPs, and many hospitals aren't equipped to test for them, prompting concerns that NIPs are going undiagnosed. Even when they are diagnosed, there are limited reporting procedures in place to track the existence and movement of these diseases. It's entirely possible that NIPs are far more prevalent in this country than has been documented.

To date, research on NIPs in the U.S., like that conducted by conference participant Peter Hotez, MD, PhD, Distinguished Research Professor and president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute at George Washington University, has relied on passive surveillance. Hotez's research found evidence of NIPs or conditions that closely resemble them in Appalachia, the Mississippi River Delta, tribal reservations and in disadvantaged urban areas like Detroit and Baltimore. Currently there are no nationwide active surveillance efforts for NIPs taking place in the United States.

"The people affected by NIPs, for a variety of reasons, often don't always have the means or inclination to visit a doctor or hospital," said Hotez. "We need to step up measures in order to determine the number of people living in poverty who are affected by these conditions. These are not necessarily immigrant problems, and we know that transmission of these diseases actually occurs in the U.S. I believe the NIPs rank among the most important health disparities in our nation. We must address NTDs here and across the globe where more than 1.4 billion people living on $1.25 a day are suffering from these debilitating and devastating diseases."

In the coming months, there will be continued dialogue on how to conduct and fund active surveillance, determine the extent of disease transmission, and how to implement control programs.

"It's difficult to overstate the importance of this first step, starting the discussion and getting people from different medical and policy backgrounds talking about these diseases," said Lynn Todman, PhD, director of the Adler School's ISE. "We've been in the dark regarding NIPs in this country for a long time. We've now taken a first step to change that."

In addition to Hotez and McDonald, conference attendees included:

  •     David Engman, MD, PhD, Engman Laboratory of Tropical Parasitology and Heart Disease
  •     Sonja Boone, MD, American Medical Association, Director of Physician Health and Healthcare Disparities
  •     Sally Finney, M.Ed.CAE, American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, Executive Director
  •     Audrey French, MD, Stroger Hospital, Division of Infectious Disease, Senior Attending
  •     Susan Gerber, MD, Chicago Department of Public Health, Chief Medical Officer
  •     Elizabeth Jacobs, MD, MAPP, Stroger Hospital, Rush Medical College, Clinician-Researcher and Associate Professor of Medicine
  •     Rima McLeod, MD, University of Chicago Toxoplasmosis Center, Medical Director
  •     David L Williams, PhD, Rush University Medical Center , Associate Professor

The Adler School's Institute on Social Exclusion (ISE) was established in 2005 as the first of three planned Institutes for Social Change at the Adler School of Professional Psychology. The mission of the Institute is to pursue the Adler School's vision of social justice by directing attention to and addressing the structural origins of social disadvantage. To learn more, visit

Media Contact
Tim LeRoy         
tleroy (at) pcipr (dot) com

# # #

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Visit website