Baylor College of Medicine in collaboration with Texas Children’s Hospital and the Sabin Vaccine Institute was the site for Research!America’s Global Health Forum on Neglected Tropical Diseases.
Led by Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at BCM, the event included speakers from Texas and all over the country who focus on global health and tropical diseases, including experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.
The 150 attendees included physicians and researchers from various Texas Medical Center institutions, Texas public health departments as well as members of the Houston community.
Experts highlighted an underappreciated burden of disease from neglected tropical diseases in Texas, especially conditions such as Chagas disease, cutaneous leishmaniasis, cysticercosis, toxocariasis, and dengue and other arboviral infections.
At the conclusion of the conference, Hotez highlighted the main cross-cutting themes of the conference:
- The need for more public health studies on neglected tropical diseases to obtain hard data on how many people are affected by these diseases and where.
- Additional research on the ecology of transmission of these diseases, especially Chagas and leishmaniasis.
- The need to increase the capacity of public health laboratories for diagnostic testing of these diseases.
- The need for a new generation of control tools, including drugs, vaccines and diagnostics.
- The impact of the economic downturn on public health surveillance and research and development.
- The importance of getting the word out about the diseases.
- Educating physicians and other health care providers about these diseases in order to improve clinical awareness and management.
- Identifying the social determinants of health – what about poverty makes people more susceptible?
- Linking public health and public policy and the importance of political commitment to global health.
- Making sure that these diseases, which are present in the United States, do not fall through the cracks.
Hotez and other speakers emphasized that this was the time to get involved and encouraged increased awareness of these diseases by educating health care providers, the public and policy makers.