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Waging Peace through Neglected Tropical Disease Control: A US Foreign Policy for the Bottom Billion
28 Jan 2009
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.
2009 Hotez, Thompson. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
The Editor of PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, Peter Hotez, and the former US Health and Human Services Secretary, Tommy Thompson, say that ‘medical diplomacy’ and the control of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) should be used as a means to combat terrorism. They argue that NTDs not only cause poverty but also destabilise communities, often resulting in conflict.
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 considerably lower cost than treatment for HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis.
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”, Hotez and Thompson say that strengthening US efforts to eliminate NTDs would help end the cycle of poverty in areas of conflict and promote peace and economic prosperity.
The article sites recent 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.”
The authors also note that many nations considered to be diplomatic ‘hot spots’ for the United States exhibit high rates of NTDs, with up to half their populations suffering from one or more NTD. They conclude that: “Highly cost-effective NTD control measures need to be fully embraced not only by public health experts and biomedical scientists, but also by the foreign policy community. Doing so would be a sign that the US firmly understands its place in the world and its responsibility to its founding principles and values.”
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