As many of you know, I have done some work over the years with the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) including some work with the African Programme on Onchocerciasis Control (APOC). Although I have not been actively involved with much research in the area, I love keeping up to date with what has been going on in the field.
A new study, published by some former colleagues this month in Parasites and Vectors (c’mon, I know you all read it too) suggests that not only might the models adopted by APOC for the control of River Blindness be effective at achieving control but that they might also be able to achieve something even more impressive: elimination.
APOC has now been supporting programs in some countries for over 15 years, which is an eternity by global health standards. In some of these distribution communities researchers have been able to go in and measure the prevalence of onchocerciasis and found that it is in fact zero…not close to zero…but actually zero cases. Period. This is exciting stuff.
At the outset of these programs, no one really knew what would be achievable, how long it would take to achieve results, and whether something like elimination was really in fact possible from drug distribution alone. Long-term commitment to the program from donors and implementing countries, realistic goals and a governance structure commitment to re-evaluation, strong regional leadership from the APOC program (especially under Uche Amazigo, one of the authors of this paper) and a commitment to ongoing monitoring and evaluation were really what were key.
I think that is the lesson here: results don’t happen over night, but when the programs are given time to achieve them and the right systems are in place to monitor and measure them, great things can happen.Share on Facebook