Lessons from the NTD world on scaling up health innovation

News article 30 May 2013
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LSTM’s Emeritus Professor David Molyneux was a speaker at Tuesday’s Investing in Health Innovation – What Lessons for Eye Health? A seminar with sessions co-chaired by LSTM’s Professor Moses Bockarie and hosted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Professor Molyneux talked about innovation and lessons learned from the world of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).

Considerable progress has been made in addressing NTDs, thanks to increased political and financial movement and community level innovation. That progress moved a step forward on 27 May 2013, when a World Health Assembly resolution was passed on 17 NTDs. An historic landmark for global health that includes lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis blinding trachoma, soil transmitted helminths and onchocerciasis (river blindness).

Professor Molyneux spoke at the seminar about the historic innovation for the control of river blindness and the vision of large scale control of vectors, including the first time the World Bank supported a health programme.  Investment from public and private funders and in-kind support in the form of free drugs for treatment, were flagged up as being crucial to the successes of NTD treatment and control programmes. In 1988 Merck made the innovative decision to donate ivermectin (MectizanR) for river blindness. Poor people could not afford these drugs so it was donated for “as long as needed”, laying the foundation for many more donations from big pharmaceutical companies to address this lack of available affordable drugs.

Other examples of innovation involved simple solutions, including the use of drinking straws to help reduce the transmission of Guinea Worm and health education messages incorporated into designs printed on cloth.

Professor Molyneux encouraged innovation to come from the bottom upwards and to engage with the people affected by these health problems and include them in developing innovative solutions.

 

Sponsored by Standard Chartered Bank and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, VISION 2020, the global campaign to eliminate avoidable blindness is sponsored by Standard Chartered Bank and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness. Driven by innovation, there has been significant progress in the field of eye care since.

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