Jun 12, 2015
By: Yayne Hailu, External Relations Associate
Earlier this week a small group of world leaders convened to discuss pressing universal issues like global economy, international security, and – yes, neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)!
The 41st G7 Summit, held this year in Bavaria, Germany, included special attention on global health, which was a priority on the agenda of the German G7 Presidency. Along with two other health focuses, NTDs have gained a platform that could potentially lead to scientific advancements through research and increased investment in elimination and control efforts. As a public health nerd (and champion) I was pleasantly surprised to see that NTDs have made their way into the spotlight.
Though it may seem odd that a group of diseases relatively unknown to the international community should become a topic for the world’s leading nations, it all makes perfect sense. Chancellor Angela Merkel explained it best during her speech at the 68th World Health Assembly in May:
We’re picking up on [this issue] because we have strong economies, because we G7 states have a high level of scientific expertise, and because we share values that stress the indivisible nature of human dignity, a principle which should not be geographically confined to the G7 countries.
The G7 promotes a community of shared values and with this, believes in ensuring prosperity and economic opportunity, and the basic human right to health for all people. While NTDs are a product (and a cause) of poverty, in the globalized world that we live in, diseases that affect marginalized populations have a global impact and benefit from global action, as we keenly learned from the recent Ebola crisis.
In conclusion of the meeting, the world powers re-committed to collaborating with key partners in coordinating research for preventative, control, and treatment measures as well as stimulating research for development of affordable drugs, vaccines, and technologies. They also recognized and advocated for the importance of health system strengthening and community-based responses to NTDs.
With increased attention from the G7, their renowned scientists, and subsequently, the greater international community, I am cautiously optimistic that this could pave the way for others to commit to the fight. I hope that at the least, more investors and partners from around the world will recognize the burden of NTDs and feel encouraged to combat it.
The NTD community shares my excitement and hopefulness that this new focus will bring about powerful change for over 1.4 billion people affected with these diseases. Leading up to the summit, several organizations in the community wrote open letters urging the G7 to implement a collective plan of action that would fill the remaining gaps in their elimination and control efforts. This declaration is a promising first step in that direction.