News from TDR Director, John Reeder

TDR news item
31 January 2017

We’re starting off the new year with some exciting research that is meeting the needs identified by countries in two regions of the World Health Organization.

Credit: Iza Suder-Dayao

Zika research will be starting up in 7 Latin American countries. The studies range from identifying transmission risk factors to evaluating diagnostic tools and examining the use of prenatal counselling and contraceptives.

The Eastern Mediterranean region is focused on implementation research on neglected tropical diseases, malaria and tuberculosis. They’re looking at system issues and how to improve access and delivery of critical diagnostics and medicines.

Using networks to reduce the impact of tuberculosis during pregnancy

In Benin and Guinea, two teams of researchers supported by TDR and the Damien Foundation are investigating how to increase early detection of tuberculosis (TB) among women cared for in prenatal clinics and in centres specialized in the care of pregnant women living with HIV. This is coming from the West African Regional Network for Tuberculosis that TDR is supporting. Researchers, programme officers and policy-makers are coming together to identify research priorities, learn from each other, and try out new approaches. Working through partnerships and networks is key to how TDR works, and I’m looking forward to seeing the longer-term impact of this on the region.

The Access and Delivery Project

There is so much to like about this project, which was discussed at a side event of the important annual Prince Mahidol Award Conference in Bangkok. First and foremost, the Access and Delivery Project is increasing the capacity of low- and middle-income countries to utilize health technology ̶ to be prepared for it and get the best out of it. It’s also helping these countries think about the next wave of innovations that they need, and be part of that development. And finally, it beautifully supports the Sustainable Development Goals, which call for multi-disciplinary approaches and moving beyond health to include sectors like education and science. The partnership is funded by the government of Japan and led by one of our co-sponsors, UNDP. We provide technical assistance along with UNDP and PATH.

Social innovation: what works and why?

The Social Innovation in Health Initiative (SIHI) has 2 projects to profile this month. One is a new paper that provides some insights from practitioners, funders and policy-makers on what kind of evidence is useful to them. The qualitative study looked at what could be learned for social innovation, and covered both research and evaluation. It resulted in 5 strategies offered for improvement that are valuable beyond this area.

This month’s SIHI case study is with the Partners in Leprosy Action, which is helping community-based organizations play a unique role in supporting the last steps to full disease elimination. Increasing awareness and improving skills among frontline health workers, through regular training and engagement, is helping improve the identification and treatment of neglected tropical diseases.

TDR news

Editorial: The challenges of disease elimination – the example of visceral leishmaniasis

Piero Olliaro, TDR’s head of intervention and implementation research, provides an excerpt this month from aPLOS NTD Policy Platform article written by a senior group of researchers and policy-makers. He writes how progress towards the elimination of a neglected tropical disease from a country can sometimes be a curse. As the numbers of those infected go down, resources can be directed elsewhere even when there is still work to do. The editorial is an important one that relates to many disease elimination programmes ̶ how to get to the end point and make it sustainable.

Memorial David Baldry

We at TDR were sad to hear about the death of Dr David Baldy, who passed away on the 14th of January, one day short of turning 81. If onchocerciasis can be eliminated, and people could settle in fertile lands that they had deserted because of river blindness, it is in good part thanks to Dr Baldry’s unique contribution and dedication. Dr Baldry recognised that detailed mapping of blackfly breeding sites was essential in order to target and monitor aerial insecticide spraying. In the early days of the Onchocerciasis Control Programme (OCP), he mapped vast intervention areas in West Africa, flying with the pilots he had himself trained as Chief of Aerial Operations.

Today, David Baldry’s pioneering work, coupled with mass treatment (with ivermectin) of populations at risk, has led to unprecedented progress. Global efforts are now geared towards eliminating river blindness. On the social front, control of river blindness allowed entire communities to reclaim 25 million hectares of abandoned arable land for settlement and agriculture.

TDR Global member profile

This month’s TDR Global profile comes from the women in science grant. Rose Leke first made her mark in the 1990s by investigating the immunology of parasitic infections, particularly malaria, and went on to become an international leader and mentor to women scientists. She is helping to create new opportunities for women researchers in her home country, Cameroon, and she represents the very best of TDR – reaching out to help others and making a positive impact on the lives of the most vulnerable in her home country.

For more information, contact:
Jamie Guth
TDR Communications Manager
Telephone: +41 79 441 2289

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