Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) represent a group of diverse diseases that cause significant morbidity and mortality worldwide but have until recently received limited attention from the affluent regions of the world. More than 1 billion people – one-sixth of the world’s population – suffer from one or more NTDs. These diseases affect the world’s most vulnerable populations, almost exclusively poor and powerless people living in rural areas and urban slums of low-income countries. Their impact on individuals and communities is devastating. Many of them cause severe disfigurement and disabilities, including blindness.
NTDs coexist with poverty because they thrive where access to clean water and sanitation is limited, and people live without protection from disease vectors. NTDs also are recognized as a contributor to poverty since they can impair intellectual development in children, reduce school enrollment and hinder economic productivity by limiting the ability of infected individuals to work.
Fortunately, seven of the most prevalent NTDs can be targeted using a similar public health strategy developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) known as preventive chemotherapy. This strategy involves large-scale distribution of safe, effective medicines. Through multiple rounds of treatment to whole communities, known as mass drug administration or MDA, these disease can be controlled or eliminated. NTD programs are critical in creating a healthier, thriving, and more equitable world.