About 800 participants from 86 countries are expected to attend, in person and online, the first global meeting on skin-related neglected tropical diseases (skin NTDs), hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO) at its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, on 27-31 March 2023. The meeting will be conducted in English, French and Spanish.
Skin diseases are the third most prevalent cause of illness and one of the top 10 causes of disability. They are also among the 10 most common causes of outpatient visits and are often associated with long-term disability, stigmatization and mental health problems. Of the 20 neglected tropical diseases, at least 10 present with skin manifestations.
“This meeting is timely as we resume full programmatic activities after more than three years of COVID-19-related disruptions,” said Dr Socé Ibrahima Fall, Director of WHO’s Global NTD Programme. “Integration is one of the NTD road map’s key strategic cross-cutting shifts and will help us achieve the 2030 targets for all NTDs. It will also help us play an important role in strengthening primary health care.”
Skin NTDs are widely prevalent in tropical and sub-tropical regions and include Buruli ulcer; cutaneous leishmaniasis; mycetoma, chromoblastomycosis and other deep mycoses; leprosy (Hansen’s disease); lymphatic filariasis; onchocerciasis; post-kala-azar dermal leishmaniasis; scabies and other ectoparasitoses (including tungiasis); and yaws. They all require similar detection and case-management.
This first WHO global meeting will explore how to better integrate case management of skin NTDs using cross-cutting approaches, to increase cost–effectiveness and expand coverage across the health sector.
WHO has received more than 200 abstracts ahead of the meeting, and some 80 oral presentations will be heard during five days of discussions on a wide range of thematic areas.
Participants include representatives of youth and civil society groups, ministries of health, government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, partners and donors. Academic and research institutions will also be in attendance.
“This huge participation shows the growing interest in novel approaches to address diseases that affect millions of mostly poor people,” said Dr Kingsley Asiedu, who leads WHO’s skin NTDs team.
The meeting will focus on progress and challenges in integrating skin NTD activities in countries and the status of training tools, technological innovations, diagnostics and treatments, disability and rehabilitation, and research.
“We look forward to learning from the experiences of participants in rolling out integrated interventions at the field level; this will guide our collective efforts in the future,” said Dr Daniel Argaw Dagne, Head of the Prevention, Treatment and Care unit of WHO’s Global NTD Programme.
Strategic framework and tools
In June 2022, WHO published a strategic framework that identifies opportunities for the integrated control and management of skin NTDs. With support from WHO and partners, several countries have started implementing integrated activities.
To encourage uptake of the Strategic Framework, WHO is offering online courses and has developed an interactive mobile phone application (available for both Android and iOS). A training manual in multiple languages is also available and all these resources are geared towards building the capacity of primary health care workers.
As skin NTDs require detection via simple examinations of the skin and share similar case-management and rehabilitation approach post-diagnosis, there is an excellent opportunity for integration, cost reduction and expanded coverage.
If you wish to follow the meeting online, please complete the Zoom registration form.