2022 Asia highlights
It would be best if patients didn’t have to go to hospital and could take their medicine at home. I hope that with ASHAs’ hard work, one day visceral leishmaniasis will be eliminated.
Shishu Kumari is an Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) facilitator in the Saran district of Bihar, India. She has been working as an ASHA for 14 years and has seen how visceral leishmaniasis treatment has evolved. While the earlier treatment lasted for a full month, the current treatment is given in just one day, bringing hope for sustainable elimination of visceral leishmaniasis in South Asia.
Shishu Kumari, an Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) facilitator in Bihar, India, is among the more than one million female ASHAs across India working to support maternal care, childhood immunization, nutrition, control of neglected tropical diseases, and other public health priorities.
ASHAs act as a bridge between the healthcare system and the community, providing crucial information about basic health services and encouraging people in rural and remote areas to seek timely medical care. In 2022, ASHAs received the WHO Director-General’s Global Health Leaders Award in recognition of their outstanding contribution to protecting and promoting health.
ASHAs have played an important role in India’s significant strides towards eliminating visceral leishmaniasis (VL) as a public health problem. Reported cases in the country have fallen from 44,533 in 2007 to just 834 in 2022.
Complementing ASHAs’ work at the community level, DNDi is supporting the national elimination programme with our Centres of Excellence (COEs) project, which aims to strengthen the referral system to district hospitals for the management of complicated cases of leishmaniasis and bring diagnosis and treatment closer to patients’ homes.
Together with our COE partners, DNDi teams are working to set up dedicated leishmaniasis wards, upgrade laboratories with essential supplies, establish standard operating procedures for managing complex cases, and develop training modules for ASHAs, nurses, doctors, laboratory technicians, and pathologists. By the end of 2022, the project had trained and retrained around 1,000 ASHAs in the Saran and Purnea districts to identify and refer patients to the COEs.
Asian innovation driving progress for neglected patients
More than 70% of the disease burden of dengue is estimated to be in Asia, where severe dengue has become a leading cause of hospitalization and death among children and adults in many countries. The climate-sensitive disease is the most widely distributed and rapidly spreading mosquito-borne viral disease in the world, but there are no specific drugs to treat it.
Launched in 2022, the Dengue Alliance is a global initiative joining leading medical research institutes from dengue-endemic countries, including in India, Malaysia, and Thailand, to develop affordable and accessible treatments for dengue. Together, we are building on lessons from successful South-South R&D collaborations, including our recent development of ravidasvir for hepatitis C with partners in Malaysia, Thailand, and Egypt. With the broad scientific expertise, public leadership, and commitment represented among Dengue Alliance members, we are confident that our partnership can develop the essential health tools that the prevailing medical innovation system has yet to deliver.
Journalists visit the Siriraj Center of Research Excellence in Dengue and Emerging Pathogens at Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok during the October 2022 DNDi Media Workshop
Science journalism in an age of climate-sensitive diseases
As the COVID-19 pandemic so clearly brought to light, journalists play a crucial role in communicating accurate information about public health. They are often the only barrier against fake news and misinformation that may circulate about health and science.
To support reporters in fulfilling this vital role, DNDi created a media workshop programme for health and science reporters from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. It aims to help reporters better understand neglected diseases, the complex science behind discovering, developing, and delivering new treatments, and the stigma and discrimination that those impacted often face.
In October 2022 in Bangkok, Thailand, we held our first-ever media workshop in Asia, bringing together 15 health and science journalists from Malaysia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, and Nepal on the side-lines of the 2022 International Congress of Tropical Medicine and Malaria. The three-day, fully funded workshop was designed to give journalists a thorough introduction to neglected climate-sensitive diseases in the region and to hone their understanding of the scientific rationale behind efforts to develop new drugs to treat them, including as critical tools in the climate adaptation agenda. Numerous workshop participants went on to publish articles as a direct result of their attendance at the workshop – a win for all involved.
Photo credits: Matt Bouch-DNDi; Luke Duggleby-DNDi
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