Peter Hotez and colleagues, in a new analysis in PLoS Medicine, throw down a compelling challenge to the global health community to intensify its response to the neglected tropical diseases. The authors discuss opportunities for integrating neglected disease control with interventions against the “big three,” namely, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria [ 1]. They highlight 13 neglected tropical diseases: seven helminthic infections (e.g., schistosomiasis), three vector-borne protozoan infections (e.g., lymphatic filariasis), and three bacterial infections (e.g., trachoma). The main geographic focus of these diseases is sub-Saharan Africa.
In the last decade, the world has witnessed the establishment of numerous global partnerships for health that address some of the grandest challenges, specifically the big three, child and maternal mortality, and micronutrient deficiencies. These new partnerships have succeeded in substantially raising the profiles of those health problems, generating unprecedented financial resources, and improving the technical means to tackle them. The global health partnerships and additional resources provide leverage to attain health- and poverty-related international development targets, such as the Millennium Development Goals.
In sharp contrast, advocacy to increase public awareness of and response to the neglected tropical diseases has been far less evident. This lack of advocacy can be attributed to the diseases' primary impact on the poorest of the poor in rural and deprived urban settings, the underestimation of their public health and economic significance, and the lack of coordinated research and control efforts. How can this unacceptable situation be changed? Hotez and colleagues provide some bold thoughts for a way forward. Building on several recent publications [ 2–5], Hotez et al.'s contribution is the most complete review of the issues to date. It has the potential to bring the neglected tropical diseases into a global health focus with the necessary attention on partnership building to facilitate integration of chemotherapy-based morbidity control.