Baker Institute expert: Governments must step up fight against neglected tropical diseases

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David Ruth
713-348-6327
david@rice.edu

Jeff Falk
713-348-6775
jfalk@rice.edu

Baker Institute expert: Governments must step up fight against neglected tropical diseases

HOUSTON – (May 1, 2013) – Despite recent progress, much more needs to be done to combat such  parasitic and bacterial diseases as hookworm, snail fever, river blindness, guinea worm, elephantiasis, sleeping sickness and leprosy in developing nations and the United States, according to Dr. Peter Hotez, the fellow in disease and poverty at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

PETER HOTEZ

Hotez makes this case in the second edition of his 2008 book, “Forgotten People, Forgotten Diseases,” released today. He argues that neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are an important reason populations in Africa, Asia and Central and South America remain caught in a vicious cycle of poverty, stigma and despair.

“Current levels of public funding are not sufficient to achieve complete mass drug administration targets, and there is an overreliance on the governments of the United States (mostly through USAID) and the United Kingdom (Department for International Development) for support,” Hotez wrote. “Increasingly we need to look to new wealth from the emerging market economies such as the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), the MIST nations (Mexico, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand) and the sovereign wealth of the Middle East. Similarly, the U.S. (mostly through the National Institutes of Health) and European governments, in addition to the Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust, provide most of the global support for research and development. We need the emerging market economies to step up.”

Hotez said a major development since the publication of the first edition has been the realization that NTDs also occur among the poor living in wealthy countries, especially the United States and, to some extent, Europe. “We have uncovered an extraordinary disease burden from NTDs in Texas and adjacent Gulf Coast states, including Chagas disease, congenital cytomegalovirus, dengue, murine typhus, toxocariasis, trichomoniasis and West Nile virus,” Hotez wrote. “NTDs and poverty are inextricably linked — we now have 20 million Americans who live in extreme poverty, including 1.5 million families in the U.S. whose members live on less than $2 per day.”

Hotez is 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 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, associate director of national media relations at Rice, at jfalk@rice.edu or 713-348-6775.

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Related materials:

Hotez biography: http://bakerinstitute.org/personnel/fellows-scholars/photez.

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 conducts 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 www.bakerinstitute.org or on the institute’s blog, http://blogs.chron.com/bakerblog

About Jeff Falk