By Dr. Peter Hotez

Poor economic conditions have long been known to increase the risk of disease. But only recently have diseases of poverty, mostly associated with countries outside the United States, been recognized as a growing problem here at home.

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) might sound foreign, but they can actually be found in pockets of poverty across the U.S., most prominently in what Arianna Huffington recently called "Third World America."

These diseases cause profound disability and disfigurement, and can impair physical, intellectual and cognitive growth in children, trigger adverse pregnancy outcomes and reduce worker productivity. Our studies indicate that some of the highest rates of NTDs occur in Texas and states along the Gulf Coast. One in five people in this region, most of whom are African American or Hispanic, live in poverty -- making them even more vulnerable to these diseases.

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