The COUNTDOWN research consortium, which is calling time on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) has just held its official launch meeting. This was at the end of a four day workshop with its international partners here at LSTM, representing Ghana, Liberia, Cameroon and Nigeria as well as the UK and the USA.
The consortium, a multi-disciplinary partnership, was formed last year following a £7 million grant allocation from the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and will trial and evaluate new approaches to the distribution of the much needed drugs donated by pharmaceutical companies for Mass Drug Administration (MDA) programmes. It will also examine how NTD programmes can be better integrated into broader health system responses, to build resilience.
As part of the push towards universal access to health services, there is international consensus that NTDs such as onchocerciasis, lymphatic filariasis, soil-transmitted helminthiasis, schistosomiasis and trachoma, must be tackled more effectively and NTD control programmes need more assistance.
Partners in the COUNTDOWN consortium bring a substantive network of contacts in the NTD community including funders, academic and research institutions, drug companies, Ministries of Health, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and policy stakeholders. The four day workshop has seen them travel from the Cameroon, Ghana, Liberia, Europe, the UK and the USA to LSTM, to set targets for the work streams being undertaken.
COUNTDOWN Director, Professor Russell Stothard, said: “The last four days have been extremely productive and I would like to thank everyone, especially those who have travelled to participate, particularly from Liberia, for their efforts. COUNTDOWN is about ensuring that we are able to provide practical health system’s guidance on how to speed- up and scale-up action to target NTDs in both Anglophone and Francophone countries in Central and Western Africa. By physically bringing together this multi-disciplinary partnership this week we have a clear directive and mission about where we go from here in order to address the need for a move to universal access to health services, and tackle diseases that affect some of the world’s poorest communities.”
The launch meeting was opened by LSTM’s Director, Professor Janet Hemingway, along with Professor Stothard, and there were presentations about the consortium’s framework and themes and perspectives from partners. This was followed by a panel discussion with partners and experts about situating COUNTDOWN in the wider NTD and health systems setting.
COUNTDOWN is working to support the achievement of the 2020 targets set out in the London Declaration on NTDs.
Partners in the COUNTDOWN consortium include: the Cameroon Ministry of Public Health; the Centre for Schistosomiasis and Parasitology in Cameroon; Ghana Health Service; FHI 360; Liberia Ministry of Health and Social Welfare; Pamoja Communications and Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) which also acts as host and administrative hub of the consortium.