Neglected Tropical Disease NGO Network Annual Conference 2020: LCNTDR Workshop Report

30 Nov 2020

The theme for this year’s Neglected Tropical Disease NGO Network (NNN) Annual Conference was “Accelerating to 2030: Building Resilient NTD Programmes in a Changing World”. The London Centre for NTD Research (LCNTDR) held a workshop on the first day of the conference (8th September) entitled “Strengthening the connection between research and programming to beat NTDs”. The workshop shared recent advances in scientific research for NTD control by LCNTDR member institutions and their collaborators, highlighting the wide range of work being undertaken by the LCNTDR towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals as well as supporting the objectives in the WHO NTD road map. The session was chaired by Professor Sir Roy Anderson and facilitated by Justine Marshall, and featured four short presentations:

  • Can deworming at pre-natal clinics prevent morbidity from infections with soil-transmitted helminths in women of reproductive age? (Dr Carolin Vegvari, Imperial College London)
  • Evaluating the impact of biannual school-based and community-wide treatment on urogenital schistosomiasis in Niger (Dr Anna Phillips, Imperial College London)
  • What tools are needed for schistosomiasis transmission monitoring as we move towards elimination?  (Dr Bonnie Webster, Natural History Museum, London)
  • Patient pathways and barriers to treatment for kala-azar: findings from cross-sectional surveys and in-depth interviews in Bangladesh, India, Ethiopia and Sudan (Lucy Paintain, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine)

The workshop was well attended with a range of geographies and stakeholder groups, including national control programmes, policy makers, donors, NGOs and academia. Discussions followed the presentations on the topics of how research can be translated into evidence-based programmes, how research can support the strengthening of resilient health systems, and what further research is required to achieve WHO NTD road map targets.

To maximise relevance and uptake, research should be driven by country priorities, including engagement of affected communities. The strength of coordination was also a common theme – for example, the standardisation of data collection methods, tools and indicators across countries, and integration of databases across multiple NTDs in the same geographic area. Such an approach can reveal patterns that might otherwise be missed, and prompt areas for further exploration.

As we move towards elimination, the need for further research on how to integrate NTDs into health systems is going to become ever more important to promptly diagnose and manage the smaller number of cases. Improved diagnostics are urgently needed for several NTDs, such as schistosomiasis to improve case finding and management. Developing methodologies for evaluating health system strengthening activities is a particular challenge to be grappled with, and health economics is also going to play an important role in the elimination era – taking a sufficiently long time horizon and wide societal perspective to highlight the benefits of continued investment and maintain focus and funding.

WHO is best positioned to coordinate the development of standardised, transparent and accessible data for national and international needs, including the identification of research gaps.