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PUBLIC RELEASE DATE:
26-Jan-2009

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Contact: Lisa Gibby
Lisa.gibby@homefront.tv
202-531-8222
PLOS

Controlling neglected tropical diseases may be key to US foreign policy

Stating that neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) not only promote poverty but also destabilize communities, former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson and Sabin Vaccine Institute President Peter Hotez call upon the public-health and foreign-policy communities to embrace medical diplomacy and NTD control as a means to combat terrorism in an article published January 27 in the open-access journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

In "Waging Peace through Neglected Tropical Disease Control: A US Foreign Policy for the Bottom Billion," Thompson and Hotez make a strong case for the new U.S. presidential administration to engage in medical diplomacy as a critical piece of its foreign policy agenda. Defining medical diplomacy as "the winning of hearts and minds of people in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and elsewhere by exporting medical care, expertise, and personnel to help those who need it most," the authors say that strengthening U.S. efforts to eliminate NTDs would help end the cycle of poverty in areas of conflict and promote peace and economic prosperity.

The authors cite recent scientific analysis of the adverse impact of NTDs on agricultural productivity, education, future wage earnings, and the health of mothers and children in low-income countries, demonstrating the "multiple and intimate connections between pervasive NTDs and conflict." They note that many nations that are considered diplomatic "hot spots" for the United States exhibit high rates of NTDs, with up to 50% of their populations suffering from one or more NTD.

"As the most common afflictions in the world's areas of conflict and strife, and among the most common bases for diminished agricultural productivity, food insecurity, ignorance, and community destabilization, NTDs represent an obvious target for medical diplomacy," says Hotez, President of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, Distinguished Research Professor and Walter G. Ross Professor & Chair of Microbiology, Immunology, and Tropical Medicine at The George Washington University School of Medicine. "NTD control is also highly cost-effective, with treatment of the seven most common NTDs averaging a remarkable 50 cents per person, per year."

"Acts of compassion destroy the rhetoric of terrorists, and the world responds best to America when it provides medical humanitarian relief to the world's war-torn and poorest regions," says former Secretary Thompson, Global Ambassador of the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases. "President [Barack] Obama and Secretary of State [Hillary] Clinton have a unique opportunity to engage in proven effective medical diplomacy strategies aimed at eliminating NTDs and fostering global prosperity and stability."

NTDs are devastating, debilitating, and deadly diseases that affect 1.4 billion people living on less than US$1.25 a day. Control or elimination of several NTDs, including ascariasis, trichuriasis, lymphatic filariasis, trachoma, and onchocerciasis, can be achieved for a fraction of the cost of treatment for HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis. The authors note that, "in practical terms, this means that the entire at-risk populations of war-torn areas and areas of conflict in sub-Saharan Africa could be treated for one year at roughly the cost of one or two F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets."

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Global Network Ambassador Thompson will deliver a speech on medical diplomacy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. on January 27th at 3 pm.

PLEASE ADD THIS LINK TO THE PUBLISHED ARTICLE IN ONLINE VERSIONS OF YOUR REPORT: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0000346 (link will go live on Tuesday, January 30)

CITATION: Hotez PJ, Thompson TG (2009) Waging Peace through Neglected Tropical Disease Control: A US Foreign Policy for the Bottom Billion. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 3(1): e346. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0000346

CONTACT:

Lisa Gibby
The Global Network
Lisa.gibby@homefront.tv
+1-202-531-8222


Disclaimer

This press release refers to an upcoming article in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases. The release is provided by the article authors and their institutions. Any opinions expressed in these releases or articles are the personal views of the journal staff and/or article contributors, and do not necessarily represent the views or policies of PLoS. PLoS expressly disclaims any and all warranties and liability in connection with the information found in the releases and articles and your use of such information.

About PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases

PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases (http://www.plosntds.org/) is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal devoted to the pathology, epidemiology, prevention, treatment, and control of the neglected tropical diseases, as well as public policy relevant to this group of diseases. All works published in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases are open access, which means that everything is immediately and freely available subject only to the condition that the original authorship and source are properly attributed. The Public Library of Science uses the Creative Commons Attribution License, and copyright is retained by the authors.

About the Public Library of Science

The Public Library of Science (PLoS) is a non-profit organization of scientists and physicians committed to making the world's scientific and medical literature a freely available public resource. For more information, visit http://www.plos.org.



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