For those of us in the neglected tropical disease (NTD) community, Washington, DC was an exciting place to be recently. World renowned experts gathered in the nation’s capitol at the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene’s annual meeting, sharing their latest findings and innovations that have the potential to make a direct impact on the improvement of people’s health and financial well-being.

The Global Network attended many of the sessions, ranging from how to integrate NTD treatments with water, sanitation, and hygiene programs and assessing progress in the fight against lymphatic filariasis to mapping NTDs. Here are just some of the highlights:

Women and Out-of-School Children in Determining the Success of NTD Programs: Next steps include investing in gender-sensitive education, recognizing guidelines on how to treat pregnant women, collecting better data, engaging women from the onset, and integrating various interventions to reach out-of-school children, including mass drug administration (MDA) for NTDs, polio vaccines and vitamin A.

Fred L. Soper Lecture: Dr. Frank Richards, director of the River Blindness Program, Lymphatic Filariasis Elimination Program, Schistosomiasis Control Program and Malaria Control Program at the Carter Center, celebrated the achievements of the Carter Center’s Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas (OEPA). OEPA has led an aggressive onchocerciasis elimination program, contributing to Colombia’s verification from the World Health Organization (WHO) that it successfully eliminated onchocerciasis; Colombia was the first country in the world to achieve this milestone. Dr. Richards noted the important elements that have made OEPA successful, including being data-driven and having prolonged political will, and he encouraged African nations to consider the twice a year treatment for onchocerciasis to help meet global elimination targets.

The Global Health Funding Landscape: Who and What You Need to Know and Why: Research and development (R&D) funding for NTDs has generally increased due to increased investments from the pharmaceutical industry, while public funding has largely remained steady. To help increase investments, communicating NTD research to the public and making NTDs relevant and important issues to local communities in the US are essential. Engaging scientists in advocacy work can also help make a difference because they can share first-hand experiences to policymakers.

The Critical Role of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Controlling Neglected Tropical Diseases: Improvements in sanitation has a substantial impact on trachoma. There is also a strong association between a lack of wearing shoes and hookworm infections. Randomized controlled trials and development strategies for high prevalence areas will help further assess the linkages and inform future efforts.

The Global Program to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis: Where Are We Now?: Global progress has been made in lymphatic filariasis (LF) elimination thanks to mass drug administration and unified international policies to address the disease. Morbidity management and disability prevention programs are also critical undertakings; while 27 countries have these programs in place, there is a need to scale up programs to reach everyone who has morbidity (40 million people).  To continue sustainable progress, there will need to be better integration of NTD control and elimination activities in primary health care settings.

Thanks to ASTMH and all of the presenters for engaging, interesting conference!