Mark Green: “We must integrate”

October 28th, 2009 by Global Network for NTDs Leave a reply »

mark_green_profileMark Green is the Managing Director of Malaria No More’s Malaria Policy Center in Washington, DC.  He has served as U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania and as a U.S. Congressman.

‘Malaria is deadly and yet we can prevent it with simple and affordable tools if we get them in the hands of the people that need them the most.’ That is a simple statement and it is one that I spend my days presenting. As the Managing Director of the Malaria Policy Center, my mandate is pretty clear, ‘advocate for an end to malaria deaths.’ But in Washington it can be all too easy to focus on a narrow interpretation of that mandate; after all this is a town where people establish careers by defending or championing just one issue. Today in the global health arena we don’t have that option. We must integrate work against a number of diseases to be the most effective and truly change our world.

I have spent a lot of time as a teacher and Ambassador in Africa and one thing I remember is that sick Africans don’t visit different clinics depending on their illness. There are not separate clinics for malaria and river blindness in the most remote of villages. If communities are lucky enough to have even one clinic it must respond to and treat any number of diseases. I think our approach to global health efforts must recognize this and find ways to combine efforts for the greatest impact.

Malaria and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are perfect examples of how we can pair efforts and they have seen success individually, showing us that we can realize improved health systems and an end to deaths from disease.

The world has come a long way in the fight against malaria.  The rapid scale-up of tools to fight malaria have led to reductions in malaria deaths and cases across Africa.  The strides we have made in the past five years are important and should be celebrated.

The fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) is another area in which tremendous progress has been made.  One NTD, onchocerciasis, has already been eliminated in ten West African Countries.

These successes allow us to see though that we have a long way to go. Children are still dying form malaria and nearly 1.4 billion people remain afflicted by one or more NTDs. Each year nearly 2 million people die from malaria and NTDs and the diseases often combine to exacerbate the effects of anemia, especially in pregnant women. But these statistics will not defeat our resolve in the efforts to save and improve lives.

Joint exposure to these health problems is an opportunity for joint action on both fronts.  Health centers, expertise, treatments and the distribution of needed tools could be coordinated between efforts to fight both NTDs and malaria.  This combining of treatments can reduce anemia-caused morbidity and mortality for less than 10% additional cost.  That isn’t just goodwill, it’s good economic sense.

Just as treatment efforts can work effectively together, so must our advocacy efforts.  To that end, Congressman Donald Payne and Congressman John Boozman have expanded the Congressional Malaria Caucus to include neglected tropical diseases.  The future of fighting these diseases and saving lives around the world are interconnected and now our message to policymakers is united.  Such a united response can put an end to deaths from malaria and drastically reduce the effects of NTDs.

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  1. Avi Smolen says:

    The coordination of NTD’s and Malaria makes so much sense– healthcare infrastructure is important to fighting all of these illnesses. Faith-based in-country initiatives are also important for fighting these diseases because a community effort with the help of faith leaders will be very successful. Complementing this in-country activism, is grassroots interfaith malaria-focused action happening in the U.S., such as at universities in Washington D.C.

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