End7, the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases’ international campaign to eradicate seven common diseases in developing countries, has initiated its online outreach via media like Facebook. Increasing awareness of the impact of the diseases like schistosomiasis and hookworm and improving access to medication for those illnesses, which costs 50 cents per donation, are the focus of this campaign.
While the willingness of pharmaceutical companies and philanthropies like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to assist the campaign is no doubt good news. The medication donated by drug manufacturers eliminates the cost of the drugs, thus the donations from the public will go toward the delivery of the medication to the sick.
Despite the optimistic outlook on the campaign, the impact of the program is uncertain. No matter how good the outlook is, the effectiveness of the campaign will not be apparent until years from now. Problems that would likely hinder the impact of the campaign, however, are apparent now.
To begin, the campaign does not directly address the main source of the problem: the low standard of living in areas where infection rates are high. The lack of access to clean water and living quarters contribute to poor sanitation, which in turn spurs the devastation of the diseases. As long as this is not resolved, people in these regions will continue to become ill with these diseases and medication will always be in great demand.
Another noteworthy issue is spreading awareness among the populations that are vulnerable to the diseases. Populations that are prone to infection must learn to protect themselves from the illnesses. Medication can only do so much to combat the diseases without prevention.
In addition, the campaign should also invest in researching the diseases. Even though the medication will treat the diseases, keeping the diseases from spreading is still important. Knowledge of hotspots of the diseases and the ways that it can change will be valuable to the accomplishment of the goals of End7.
Lastly, the public, especially the supporters of the campaign, should be aware that success of End7 does not necessarily guarantee socioeconomic growth or tremendous improvement in living standards. While an increase in labor productivity and school attendance are, as suggested by End7, likely to occur should the campaign be successful, people should not expect tremendous development in the disease-afflicted regions because the issues there often have historical causes.