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Improving the Health and Wellbeing of People Living With Neglected Tropical Diseases

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Neglected tropical diseases can be efficiently treated with various cross-sectoral public health interventions to improve people's well-being. Read to know more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Nagaraj

Published At December 26, 2022
Reviewed AtAugust 16, 2023

Introduction

Neglected tropical diseases consist of various diseases that mainly affect the tropical region of countries. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has taken initiatives to improve healthcare services. Universal health coverage for the affected or disabled individual is approached by two services: rehabilitation and assistive technology.

What Are Neglected Tropical Diseases?

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are an array of diseases linked or associated with poverty-driven people and communities. They are found in countries like Africa, Latin America, and Asia. Kenneth S Warren discovered the concept of “neglected tropical disease.”

What Is the Reason for Neglect of Tropical diseases?

Tropical diseases mainly affect developing countries that are poor. Neglected tropical diseases are often ignored as they have long incubation periods and are usually asymptomatic. The lack of incentives in pharmaceutical organizations is another reason for neglect.

What Are the Different Types of Neglected Tropical Diseases?

There are various types of neglected tropical diseases:

  • Trachoma (a bacterial infection that affects the eyes).

  • Leprosy/Hansen's disease (a chronic infectious disease that causes nerve damage and skin lesion).

  • Buruli ulcer (a rare exotic infection of soft tissue and skin).

  • Cysticercosis (a tapeworm infection that affects the muscle, brain, and other tissues).

  • Chagas disease (an infectious disease caused by a parasite found in the feces of the triatomine bug).

  • Dengue fever (mosquito-borne viral disease).

  • Dracunculiasis/Guinea worm disease (a parasitic infection caused by Guinea worm by drinking contaminated water).

  • Echinococcosis (a parasitic infection caused by tiny tapeworm).

  • Fascioliasis (a parasitic infection typically caused by Fasciola hepatica).

  • Leishmaniasis (a parasite infection that spreads by sandflies).

  • Human African trypanosomiasis / African sleeping sickness (a parasitic infection transmitted to humans by fly bites).

  • Lymphatic filariasis (a parasitic disease that affects the lymph vessels and lymph nodes).

  • Rabies (a virus that spreads to people from the saliva of infected animals).

  • Mycetoma (a disease caused by fungi and bacteria found in water and soil).

  • Onchocerciasis (a parasitic disease that affects the eyes and skin).

  • Schistosomiasis (a disease caused by infection with freshwater parasitic worms).

  • Soil-transmitted Helminths (group of infections including hookworm, whipworm, and roundworm).

What Are the Factors That Cause Neglected Tropical Disease?

  • Poverty.

  • Poor employment status.

  • Healthcare costs.

  • Precarious livelihood.

  • Social isolation.

  • Chronic pain and itching.

  • Reduced functioning.

What Is WHO Roadmap for Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD)?

WHO published a roadmap for NTD in the year 2012. The roadmap included the following:

  • NTDs were planned to eradicate the endemic treponematoses by the year 2020.

  • NTDs were planned to be eliminated globally by 2020, including leprosy, lymphatic filariasis, and African trypanosomiasis.

  • NTDs were planned to be eliminated during Chagas disease transmission in certain regions.

  • Specific targets with intensified control are provided against NTDs such as Buruli ulcer, echinococcosis/hydatidosis, cutaneous leishmania, and soil-transmitted helminths.

  • In February 2017, an initiative for rehabilitation was launched with the motto “call for action” that raises attention to strengthen the health system by providing rehabilitation at all levels of healthcare.

What Is the Contribution of WHO in Fighting Against Neglected Tropical Disease?

WHO has introduced five interdependent strategic directions that can aid support in shaping and transforming public health. The five strategic directions implemented are as follows:

  1. Empowering and Engaging People: Providing opportunity, resources, and skills to make effective health decisions.

  2. Strengthening Governance and Accountability: It is achieved by promoting health decisions and incentives.

  3. Re-Orientating the Model of Care: Focuses on holistic, primary, and community health service care.

  4. Coordinating Services: Involves all the sectors for health care delivery.

  5. Transformational Services: Involves transformational changes by bringing different stakeholders together.

What Are the Services to Provide Health Coverage From Neglected Tropical Diseases?

Rehabilitation and assistive technology are the two healthcare services that provide universal health coverage against NTDs.

What Is Rehabilitation?

Rehabilitation is integral to health coverage, including health promotion, disease prevention, and treatment. It is a set of proceedings designed to improve functioning and decrease disability in individuals with health conditions. Rehabilitation helps people to do daily activities independently and enable participation in work, recreation, education, and meaningful life.

What Are the Examples of Rehabilitation?

  • Exercise to improve language, communication, and speech after a brain injury.

  • Splinting and positioning techniques reduce swelling and skin healing after a burn surgery.

  • Psychological support and counseling for a person with depression.

  • Recreating the home environment to improve independence and safety at home.

  • Prescription and medical support in case of muscle stiffness for a child with cerebral palsy.

What Are the Benefits of Rehabilitation?

  • Rehabilitation helps minimize the impact of health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and other cardiovascular diseases with assistive products and self-management strategies.

  • It can help to prevent complications such as fractures, stroke, or spinal cord injury.

  • It is a set of investments that includes cost benefits for society and individuals.

  • It also helps reduce hospitalization stay and readmission costs.

What Are Misconceptions About Rehabilitation?

  • Rehabilitation is provided not only for an individual with long-term suffering but also for individuals with acute and chronic health conditions.

  • Rehabilitation is not a luxurious health service but an intervention to cure health conditions.

What Is Assistive Technology?

Assistive technology (AT) refers to equipment, products, and systems that enhance the working, learning, speaking, typing, hearing, seeing, remembering, pointing, and daily living activities of disabled individuals. It aims to improve the functional capabilities of a disabled person.

What Are Different Types of Assistive Technology (AT)?

  • AT Can Be Low Tech: Consists of a fuzzy felt or cardboard communication board.

  • AT Can Be High Tech: These are special-purpose computers.

  • AT Can Be Hardware: Consists of mounting, prosthetics systems, and pointing devices.

  • AT Can Be Computer Hardware: Keyboards, switches, and pointing devices.

  • AT Can Be Computer Software: Involves a communication program and screen readers.

Which Disabilities Are Focused by Assistive Technology?

The disabilities focused on by assisted technology are :

  • Cognitive disabilities (disability in mental functioning and skills).

  • Blindness and low vision.

  • Autism spectrum disorder (a developmental disorder that impairs the ability to interact and communicate).

  • Deafness.

  • Mobility impairment.

  • Communication disorder.

Who Can Benefit From Assistive Technology?

People who can benefit from assistive technology are :

  • People with gradual functional decline.

  • People with mental health conditions, including autism and dementia (a group of social symptoms and thinking that interferes with daily functioning).

  • People with disabilities.

  • Old age people.

  • People with non-communicable diseases such as stroke and diabetes.

What Are the Responsibilities of an Assistive Technology Service Company?

  • Evaluating individual technological needs.

  • Selecting, fitting, customizing, designing, maintaining, replacing, and maintaining.

  • Coordinating and using other services and interventions.

  • Purchasing, funding, and leasing the assistive technology device.

  • Providing technical assistance or providing training to an individual with disabilities.

Conclusion

Neglected tropical disease has affected more than billions of people worldwide. Moreover, the undiagnosed neglected tropical disease can lead to long-term disability, including stigmatization and mental health problems. Rehabilitation and assistive technology provide availability and access to all stages of healthcare, guidance, resources, and necessary compliance to fight neglected tropical diseases. The collaboration of both ensures a productive, healthy, and dignified life.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

How Could Neglected Tropical Diseases Be Controlled and Managed?

Even without vaccines, neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are largely controllable. Diseases can be avoided with clean water, sanitary food handling, and adequate hygiene.

2.

Do Bacteria Cause Neglected Tropical Diseases?

Many pathogens, such as viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi, and toxins, are causes of neglected tropical diseases.

3.

What Is Neglected Tropical Disease According to WHO?

NTDs are a diverse group of 20 diseases primarily found in tropical regions and afflict more than 1 billion people living in underdeveloped communities. Various pathogens, such as viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi, and toxins, cause it. Over one billion people suffer from these diseases' devastating health, societal, and economic effects.

4.

Are Neglected Tropical Diseases Found Only in Sub-Saharan Africa?

Several South American, Asian, and African countries are prone to NTDs. NTDs are particularly prevalent in tropical regions where residents lack access to clean water and secure facilities for disposing of human waste.

5.

How Many Neglected Tropical Diseases Are There?

There are 20 neglected tropical diseases.

6.

How Are Neglected Tropical Diseases Diagnosed?

In settings with restricted resources, point-of-care diagnostics are strongly advised for diagnosing neglected tropical diseases.
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Dr. Nagaraj
Dr. Nagaraj

Diabetology

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tropical diseases
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