Let’s take the “neglected” out of these tropical diseases

“A young girl came in once to the ASRI clinic—she had the worst case of scabies I had ever seen. We diagnosed her in about 5 minutes and treated her and her entire family for $2, because they came from a “green” village. A Yale medical volunteer who happened to be doing research asked them about their medical bills. They had spent $500 on their daughter’s care. They had gone to other doctors, multiple nurses, and the traditional healer several times, and nobody was able to treat her.”

- Dr. Kinari Webb, Founder of Health In Harmony and ASRI

 

A young girl is treated in the ASRI clinic. Photo: Kinari Webb

A young girl is treated in the ASRI clinic. Photo: Kinari Webb

Every year, the ASRI clinic sees a variety of medical conditions, and among them are dengue fever, leprosy, and scabies. These three diseases have one thing in common: they are all classified as Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs).1 NTDs are an assortment of chronic parasitic and bacterial infections that cause tremendous suffering, affecting 1 billion people worldwide.2 They are inherently “neglected” because they plague the most marginalized and vulnerable populations—they are an indicator of extreme poverty. NTDs tend to thrive in tropical regions that are characterized by a lack of infrastructure and poor hygiene practices. These diseases can be greatly debilitating, impairing development and cognitive function, killing over half a million people each year, especially children.

NTDs are not difficult to treat; mass drug administration programs cost less than 50 cents per person, per year.3 Despite this fact, funding for NTDs has historically been ignored because they rarely afflict high-income countries that focus their attention on diseases like HIV/AIDS, which doesn’t discriminate by socioeconomic status. Presently, only 1% of the clinical trials being conducted around the world are focused on NTD research.4 This is not to say that nothing is getting done—in 2012, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation teamed up with the World Health Organization and 13 pharmaceutical companies pledging to eradicate or control 10 NTDs by 2020.5 Even more, the U.S. government has revved up funding for NTDs over the last four years, reflected in the graph below. Especially when Ebola, a previously “neglected” disease, has caused an outbreak of devastating proportions, NTDs are sure to garner more attention.

USAID annual funding for Neglected Tropical Diseases

But we don’t have to sit around and wait for the rest of the world to catch up. We can do something about it. With the Community Hospital and Training Center, ASRI will have the capacity to treat more patients with higher quality care at affordable rates. With non-cash payment options, people won’t have to feel discouraged from seeking care due to the cost of medical bills. With a cutting-edge hospital with advanced resources, we can conduct more hygiene education trainings. Our hospital will have the capacity to serve the 60,000 people living in the Gunung Palung watershed, reaching to the far corners where poor infrastructure continues to be a reality.

Dr. Kinari Webb emphasizes the importance of the hospital in treating cases of NTDs, “Our clinic treats patients with these diseases, but if we had the hospital we could see so many more patients and have more physical training available for leprosy patients. With dengue fever, it would make a huge difference. In the hospital we will have ICU level care for children who are diagnosed with dengue, and patients will no longer have to be sent elsewhere to receive blood transfusions.”

With the Community Hospital and Training Center, these devastating diseases that creep into the lives of the marginalized, the underserved, no longer will be neglected. We are ready to stop the cycle of poverty and disease. Will you join us?

Construction of the Community Hospital and Training Center is set for early summer 2015. Our Capital Campaign is currently underway to raise the $1.4 million needed to make this hospital into a reality. Contribute today and help us continue saving forests and saving lives.

 

References

1 http://www.who.int/neglected_diseases/diseases/en/
2 http://www.cdc.gov/globalhealth/ntd/
3 Ibid.
4 http://www.iol.co.za/scitech/science/news/slow-progress-in-war-on-tropical-diseases-1.1751065#.VCsocy5dWuY
5 Ibid.

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About Darya Minovi | View all posts by Darya Minovi

Darya is the Communications and Outreach Manager at Health In Harmony, based in Portland, OR. After studying Public Health and Environmental Policy at the College of William and Mary, Darya knew she wanted to dedicate her career to protecting human and environmental health. When she's not at work, you can find Darya enjoying the great outdoors, exploring Portland's farmers markets, or watching live music.