Neglected tropical diseases

Promoting an integrated approach to enhance detection of neglected tropical diseases of the skin

15 March 2018 | Geneva -- The World Health Organization (WHO) will convene an important global meeting to promote an integrated approach to early detection, timely treatment, morbidity management and disability prevention for neglected tropical diseases of the skin.

The approach also has the potential to improve the skills of primary health care workers and help with detection of diseases, mainly through school-based health programmes

The so-called skin NTDs1 manifest as changes in the skin (lumps or swelling, ulcers, swollen limbs and patches) and can easily be recognized by patients or family members. Awareness of the disease and the importance of early medical treatment is essential.

Skin NTDs have definite characteristics. By training primary health care health workers, who are often the first point of contact with patients, these diseases can be recognized early and treated to prevent the complications and stigma associated with late detection,” said Dr Kingsley Asiedu, Head of WHO’s Global Buruli Ulcer Initiative.

An integrated approach to skin NTDs has many benefits as it provides a platform from which to screen populations in settings often characterized by fragile health systems.

This approach will change the way we deal with these diseases,” said Dr Alexandre Tiendrebeogo, Medical Officer for NTDs, WHO Regional Office for Africa. “The detection of these diseases can be enhanced by actively involving community health workers, especially during household visits for mass medicine administration campaigns.2

The approach also has the potential to improve the skills of primary health care workers and help with detection of diseases, mainly through school-based health programmes. It can also benefit the management of Buruli ulcer, leprosy, mycetoma, lymphoedema and hydrocele in patients suffering from lymphatic filariasis, through rehabilitation, morbidity management and disability prevention.

WHO has developed a simplified manual to help health care workers at the primary health care level to deal with multiple skin diseases,” said Professor Roderick Hay, an international expert in dermatology who led the publication. “It is now available in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish and it is our hope that every primary health care facility will have a copy.

Enhancing detection of skin NTDs through integration – the theme of the 2019 meeting – will take place on 25–27 March at WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. More than 200 participants from 34 countries, including representatives from health ministries, health workers from the field, nongovernmental organizations, the research community, academia and other interested parties are expected to attend.

1Skin NTDs include Buruli ulcer, cutaneous leishmaniasis, post-kala-azar dermal leishmaniasis, leprosy, lymphatic filariasis (lymphoedema and hydrocele), mycetoma, onchocerciasis, scabies, yaws and fungal diseases.
2 WHO guideline on health policy and system support to optimize community health worker programmes. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2018

Ashok Moloo
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