Neglected tropical diseases: mapping occurrence and tracking control

From Global development | The Guardian Wed Jan 30 2013, 17:34:49

Mobile and mapping technologies can play a key role in controlling NTDs, but more effort is required to put them into the hands of frontline workers

GPS-enabled smart phones, satnavs and Google maps provide a wealth of data on geographical locations and the things we are interested in. Such geographical richness is not readily available to programmes that tackle neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) - a group of chronic and disabling diseases that mainly occur in the tropics.

The recent Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study estimated that NTDs account for only 1% of disability-adjusted life years worldwide. This aggregate figure masks the large variation across regions, however. The highest burden of NTDs occurs in sub-Saharan Africa, with a substantial burden from schistosomiasis, onchocerciasis, African trypanosomiasis, and hookworm. Within endemic countries NTDs typically affect the poorest communities.

The cornerstone of NTD control is mass treatment with effective drugs, which are mostly donated by pharmaceutical companies. The complex life cycles of many NTDs means that their occurrence can vary considerably from community to community, such that mass treatment is most cost-effective when treatment is targeted to communities with the highest burden of disease.

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