The International Conference on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and rare diseases was held at the Vatican from November 10-12, 2016. A report from the meeting can be found online.

Next week, the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers will host an international conference on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) at the Vatican. The Vatican prepared a series of intentions for the event that describe the effect they hope this conference will have on attendees and the global community. 

Informing in order to know
Knowing in order to act
Acting in order to treat
Treating in a way that respects the life and the dignity
of the patient and the environment,
A culture of health that is welcoming and supportive,
With an outlook of hope on the future

The intentions convey beautiful sentiments, but what exactly do they mean, and what do they have to do with NTDs?

Informing in order to know

Education is key to a successful NTD treatment program! Teaching communities about NTDs is a great way to reduce the stigma of disease, encourage participation in treatment programs and prevent disease through better sanitation and hygiene practices.

Knowing in order to act

Knowing may be half the battle, but what do you do next? You don't have to be part of the team delivering treatment in order to make a big difference! You can help end the neglect by asking policymakers to support NTD funding, sharing information about NTDs throughout your community or even starting your own fundraising campaign. Last year, END7 student advocates took to Capitol Hill to urge Congress to increase funding for the USAID NTD program, and collected more than 1,300 signatures for a petition to protect funding for NTD treatment. Every one has a part they can play in the fight against NTDs.

Acting in order to treat

Did you know that neglected tropical diseases are treatable? A simple packet of pills can keep a person disease-free for a year. The best part? The pills to treat the seven most common NTDs are donated by many pharmaceutical companies, making NTD treatment one of the most cost-effective health programs available. NTD treatments are distributed to large populations through mass drug administration, or MDA. Dose poles are used to determine the height of the patient to help easily calculate the number of pills that person should receive.

 

Treating in a way that respects the life and the dignity of the patient and the environment

The most disfiguring NTDs like lymphatic filariasis, also known as elephantiasis, can isolate patients from their communities. NTD education and treatment not only aid efforts to improve nutrition, health and economic productivity, they reduce the stigma of disease and help return these marginalized patients to society. 

A culture of health that is welcoming and supportive

The foundation of any successful NTD program is the local volunteers who take the health of their communities and families into their own hands. Health professionals, school teachers and community leaders from areas afflicted by NTDs undergo training with global health NGOs to learn how to identify these diseases and distribute medicines. Together, they're working to strengthen their local health system and wipe NTDs off the map.

With an outlook of hope on the future

NTDs are are problem we know we can solve! With continued support from policymakers, ministries of health and (most importantly) everyday global health champions like you, we can see the end.