Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and zoonoses are a devastating obstacle to human settlement and socioeconomic development of already impoverished communities.
A growing body of evidence demonstrates that control of these diseases can contribute directly to achievement of several Millennium Development Goals.
Interventions against NTDs and zoonoses have already benefited millions of people, protecting them from physical pain, disability and poverty. Over the past decades, the World Health Organization (WHO), together with its partners, has formulated an innovative strategy to ensure cost-effective, ethical and sustainable control towards elimination or eradication of several NTDs. The strategy encompasses the following components:
- a multi-pronged approach;
- focus on populations and interventions rather than specific diseases;
- use of a quasi-immunization model for preventive chemotherapy;
- introduction of innovative tools for disease control;
- a multi-disease, intersectoral and interprogrammatic approach.
The "tool-ready" category of diseases is those for which powerful and inexpensive control tools are currently available and for which well-developed implementation strategies are immediately feasible. Large-scale use of safe and single-dose medicines (preventive chemotherapy) makes their control, prevention and possible elimination more feasible than ever before.
The major tasks for control of the tool-ready diseases are to expand coverage of packaged preventive chemotherapy interventions in order to access hard-to-reach populations at risk with innovative delivery systems and to continue regular treatment.
Current control strategies for the "tool-deficient" diseases rely on costly and difficult-to-manage tools. For most of those diseases, early detection and treatment are vital to avoid irreversible disability or death. There is urgent need to develop simple, safe and cost-effective tools and to make them accessible. Such innovative tools will drastically alter the existing control strategies.
The opportunities presented by an intersectoral and interprogrammatic approach and its successful use in many settings show that such a synergistic approach improves cost-effectiveness and ensures that all necessary treatments are simultaneously delivered to neglected populations who nearly always suffer from several overlapping diseases linked to poverty.
The Global Plan aims to translate this strategy into reality.
Principles for Action
The Global Plan has been formulated according to the following key principles:
- the right to health;
- existing health systems as a setting for interventions;
- a coordinated response by the health system;
- integration and equity;
- intensified control of diseases alongside pro-poor policies.
The major challenges for controlling NTDs and zoonoses are:
- procurement and supply of anthelminthic medicines;
- quantification of the burden of NTDs among neglected populations;
- provision of treatment and other interventions free of charge to communities in need;
- a system for delivery of medicines to cover the entire at-risk population;
- delivery of multi-intervention packages;
- urgent development of diagnostic tools, medicines and pesticides;
- production of more effective medicines and insecticides;
- promotion of integrated vector management;
- advocating an intersectoral, interprogrammatic approach to control of NTDs;
- early protection of children;
- post-implementation surveillance and monitoring.
Goal and Targets, 2008–2015
The goal of the Global Plan is to prevent, control, eliminate or eradicate NTDs.
The targets for the plan period 2008–2015 are:
- To eliminate or eradicate those diseases targeted in resolutions of the World Health Assembly and regional committees.
- To reduce significantly the burden of other tool-ready diseases through current interventions.
- To ensure that interventions using novel approaches are available, promoted and accessible for tool-deficient diseases.
Strategic Areas for Action
The Global Plan has nine strategic areas, each of which proposes a series of actions to meet specific targets during 2008–2015. The strategic areas are:
- Assessment of the burden of NTDs and zoonoses
- Integrated approach and multiintervention packages for disease control
- Strengthening healthcare systems and capacity-building
- Evidence for advocacy
- Ensuring free and timely access to high-quality medicines and diagnostic and preventive tools
- Access to innovation
- Strengthening integrated vector management and capacity-building
- Partnerships and resource mobilization
- Promoting an intersectoral, interprogrammatic approach to NTD control
Framework for Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation
Prior to 2008, a committee will be set up for successful implementation and operationalization of the Global Plan. Member States, WHO Collaborating Centers for NTDs, other relevant international partners and the WHO Secretariat will be part of a Steering Committee that monitors implementation and reviews progress.