The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases (Global Network) today named Abhishek Bachchan, Bollywood superstar and international humanitarian, as its first official END7 campaign ambassador in India to help raise awareness of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Mr. Bachchan joins the END7 campaign at a crucial time, with India at the tipping point of achieving control and elimination of five NTDs affecting 500 million people by 2020.
“India represents 35 percent of the total global burden for NTDs, causing massive suffering among our poorest citizens. As a parent, I am deeply moved by the devastating toll of NTDs on children, and I want to ensure that no Indian child has to suffer needlessly,” said Mr. Bachchan. “I am proud to serve as the END7 campaign’s ambassador in India and hope that others will join me in ridding our country of these preventable diseases.”
Maintaining the progress that India has gained against NTDs is vital right now. Abhishek Bachchan will play a key role in drawing attention to NTDs as an achievable health priority for India, educating the public about the impact of NTDs and the importance of complying with free NTD treatment programs, while also encouraging national and state level policymakers to continue making the cost-effective investment in NTD programs.
“We have already defeated smallpox, guinea worm and polio in India. NTDs can be our next major public health success story, and we are on track to eliminate lymphatic filariasis very soon. A focus on NTD control and elimination also represents one of the best investments we can make in the health and economic future of our country,” said Anshu Prakash, Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. “We are happy that the Global Network is supporting our efforts to control and eliminate these diseases of poverty.”
“India currently runs some of the largest NTD control and elimination programs in the world, signaling its commitment to improving the plight of millions of people,” said Dr. Neeraj Mistry, managing director of the Global Network. “By continuing to prioritize NTDs and building up the ability to deliver treatments, India can be a global leader in efforts to defeat NTDs once and for all.”
It costs approximately 50 cents (31 rupees) to treat and protect one person for an entire year against all seven of the most common NTDs. Pills to treat NTDs are donated by pharmaceutical companies and many programs use existing infrastructure, such as schools and community centers, to administer the treatments, making NTD treatment one of most cost-effective public health initiatives available today.
The seven most common NTDs—hookworm, ascariasis (roundworm), trichuriasis (whipworm), schistosomiasis (snail fever), lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis), onchocerciasis (river blindness) and trachoma—infect more than 1 in 6 people worldwide. They cause blindness, massive swelling in appendages and limbs, disfigurement, severe malnutrition and anemia. NTDs prevent children from growing and learning. They reduce adults’ economic productivity and ability to care for their families, keeping communities trapped in a cycle of poverty and disease.