Neglected tropical diseases and disability—what is the link?
Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a diverse group of infectious conditions that vary in their epidemiology, impact and control. They are among the most common conditions globally, affecting approximately one billion people. Many NTDs have long-term consequences, such as visual and physical impairments. As a result, people with NTDs may have difficulties in carrying out activities or participating in society—in other words, NTDs can cause disabilities. Additionally, NTDs are often strongly linked to stigma and can have mental health consequences. It is therefore important to incorporate rehabilitation within NTD programmes. Rehabilitation can be conceptualized narrowly in terms of the provision of clinical services (e.g. physiotherapy and assistive devices) or, more broadly, including efforts to improve employment, overcome stigma and enhance social participation of people with disabilities. Approximately 15% of the global population has a disability, and this large group must be considered when designing NTD programmes. Improving the inclusion of people with disabilities may require adaptations to NTD programmes, such as making them physically accessible or training staff about disability awareness. Without incorporating disability within NTD programmes, the quality of life of people with NTDs will suffer and global targets for elimination and management of NTDs will not be met.