US must engage a rising China through tropical disease elimination, Baker Institute expert says

David Ruth

Jeff Falk

US must engage a rising China through tropical disease elimination, Baker Institute expert says
Hotez: There are considerable parallels between China’s western provinces and the southern US

HOUSTON – (Nov. 30, 2012) –The relations between the U.S. and China can be strengthened by a coordinated effort to support neglected tropical disease (NTD) control programs in countries where these diseases are still a major public health concern, according to Dr. Peter Hotez, the fellow in disease and poverty at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

Hotez shared his perspective on this topic in an editorial published in the open-access journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases and is available to speak with media.

Hotez said both nations have a history of NTD infections that significantly impact the population. Throughout much of the 20th century, the U.S. experienced huge health and economic damage from malaria, hookworm and typhoid fever. During the same period, China had high prevalence rates of endemic hookworm, schistosomiasis and lymphatic filariasis.

He said recent advances in economic development and urbanization have enabled both countries to eliminate the most common NTDs in all but their most impoverished populations. Specifically, China has reduced the prevalence of schistosomiasis, the second leading parasitic killer after malaria, by 90 percent, and it was the first country to eliminate lymphatic filariasis, or elephantiasis, a disease that causes extreme swelling of limbs and genitals. The U.S. has also significantly reduced intestinal worm infections and malaria since the 1930s.

“There are considerable parallels between China’s western provinces and the southern U.S.,” Hotez said. “Although the U.S. and China have made great strides in controlling and eliminating NTDs, these diseases still remain among the poorest of the poor in both nations. Our shared experiences provide a unique foundation to jointly combat NTDs in our own countries as well as support developing countries in their NTD control and elimination efforts, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.”

Hotez argued that a joint Sino-U.S. enterprise around NTD control and elimination could be a powerful and winning combination. “While a long-term approach is needed to reduce NTDs in Africa and elsewhere to levels similar to the U.S. and China, there is an opportunity for our nations to share programmatic expertise and funds for NTD programs,” he said. “This is a chance to not only work on a major global health disparity but also a way for the U.S. and China to build their diplomatic relationships with each other and with endemic countries.”

Hotez is the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, where he is a professor in the Department of Pediatrics and the Department of Molecular Virology and Microbiology, head of the Section of Pediatric Tropical Medicine and the Texas Children’s Hospital Endowed Chair of Tropical Pediatrics. Hotez is also president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Awareness and Research, where he leads a partnership to develop new vaccines for hookworm, schistosomiasis and Chagas’ disease. He also co-founded the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases to provide access to essential medicines for millions of people worldwide.

The Baker Institute has a radio and television studio available for media who want to schedule an interview with Hotez. For more information, contact Jeff Falk, associated director of national media relations at Rice, at or 713-348-6775.


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Related materials:

Hotez biography:

Founded in 1993, the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University in Houston ranks among the top 20 university-affiliated think tanks globally and top 30 think tanks in the United States. As a premier nonpartisan think tank, the institute sponsors more than 20 programs that conduct research on domestic and foreign policy issues with the goal of bridging the gap between the theory and practice of public policy. The institute’s strong track record of achievement reflects the work of its endowed fellows and Rice University scholars. Learn more about the institute at or on the institute’s blog,

About Jeff Falk

Jeff Falk is associate director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.