A New Editorial Examines the Possibility of Improved U.S.-Chinese relations through Global Health Collaborations

WASHINGTON, D.C.—November 29, 2012—Today, the open-access journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases published an editorial encouraging new global health partnerships between the United States and China. The article’s author, Dr. Peter Hotez, argues that relations between the United States and China can be strengthened by a coordinated effort to support neglected tropical disease (NTD) control programs in countries where these diseases are still a major public health concern. 

 
Both nations have a history of NTD infections that significantly impact the population. Throughout much of the 20th century, the United States experienced huge health and economic damage from malaria, hookworm and typhoid fever. During the same time period, China had high prevalence rates of endemic hookworm, schistosomiasis and lymphatic filariasis.  
 
Recent advances in economic development and urbanization have enabled both countries to eliminate the most common NTDs in all but their most impoverished populations. Specifically, China has reduced the prevalence of schistosomiasis, the second leading parasitic killer after malaria, by 90 percent and was the first country to eliminate lymphatic filariasis, or elephantiasis, a disease that causes extreme swelling of limbs and genitals. The United States has also significantly reduced intestinal worm infections and malaria since the 1930s.
 
“There are considerable parallels between China’s western provinces and the southern U.S.,” said Dr. Hotez. “Although the United States and China have made great strides in controlling and eliminating NTDs, these diseases still remain among the poorest of the poor in both nations. Our shared experiences provide a unique foundation to jointly combat NTDs in our own countries as well as support developing countries in their NTD control and elimination efforts, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.”  
 
Globally, NTDs infect approximately 1.4 billion people living below the World Bank poverty level of $1.25 per day, with more than 50 percent of NTD infections occurring in Africa. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is a leader in providing financial and programmatic assistance to fight NTDs in the developing world, especially Africa.  While China has supported NTD programs in the Western Pacific region, it has yet to announce support for NTD control and elimination in Africa.
 
However, with China’s ruling Communist party bringing in a new, seven-person leadership coalition, led by Xi Jinping, there is an opportunity to engage with this growing economy to support NTD control in developing nations. Given China’s current business investments in African nations, both countries can work together to support Africa’s socio-economic progress, including improved universities, research institutions and business models through NTD programs. 
 
“A joint Sino-U.S. enterprise around NTD control and elimination could be a powerful and winning combination,” said Dr. Hotez. “While a long term approach is needed to reduce NTDs in Africa and elsewhere to levels similar to the United States Sand China, there is an opportunity for our nations to share programmatic expertise and funds for NTD programs. This is a chance to not only work on a major global health disparity, but is a way for the United States and China to build their diplomatic relationships with each other and with endemic countries.”  
 
Author Dr. Peter Hotez is president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, director of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development and the Fellow in Disease and Poverty at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. 
To read the full paper, entitled “Engaging a Rising China through Neglected Tropical Diseases,” please visit www.plosntds.org.
 
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About NTDs

NTDs are a group of 17 parasitic and bacterial infections that are the most common afflictions of the world's poorest people. They blind, disable and disfigure their victims, trapping them in a cycle of poverty and disease. Research shows that treating NTDs lifts millions out of poverty by ensuring that children stay in school to learn and prosper; by strengthening worker productivity; and by improving maternal and child health.
About Sabin Vaccine Institute   
 
Sabin Vaccine Institute is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization of scientists, researchers, and advocates dedicated to reducing needless human suffering caused by vaccine preventable and neglected tropical diseases. Sabin works with governments, leading public and private organizations, and academic institutions to provide solutions for some of the world's most pervasive health challenges. Since its founding in 1993 in honor of the oral polio vaccine developer, Dr. Albert B. Sabin, the Institute has been at the forefront of efforts to control, treat and eliminate these diseases by developing new vaccines, advocating use of existing vaccines and promoting increased access to affordable medical treatments. For more information please visit www.sabin.org.

 

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