Abhishek Bachchan Joins Effort to End Neglected Tropical Diseases in India by 2020

“NTDs cause massive suffering among our poorest citizens. … I want to ensure that no Indian child has to suffer needlessly.” -- Abhishek Bachchan

Abhishek Bachchan, one of the world’s most beloved Bollywood stars, joins us as the END7 campaign’s first official ambassador in India to help raise awareness of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). As an NTD champion in India, Mr. Bachchan will help build the momentum necessary to control and eliminate NTDs in India by 2020.  Of the 1.4 billion people in the world affected by neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), more than a third live in India. Mr. Bachchan joins END7 as a voice for the millions of Indians who are at risk of being disabled and disfigured by these easily preventable diseases.

To watch a video from Abhishek Bachchan's trip to Orissa State, India, click here

 

India runs the largest national NTD program in the world and has the resources and ability to achieve a landmark public health success -- controlling and eliminating NTDs within its borders by 2020. Fighting NTDs is one of the most effective health and anti-poverty efforts that will drive growth and development in India.

A Bollywood star speaks out

Mr. Bachchan will educate the public about the debilitating impact of NTDs while fighting the stigma that often means sufferers are shunned. He will encourage Indians living in at-risk areas to take NTD treatments in order to stop the spread of these diseases.

India can be the first country with more than a billion people to control and completely eliminate NTDs by 2020. National and state level policymakers must continue to make the cost-effective investment in NTD programs to drive health and growth in India.

An international humanitarian, Mr. Bachchan is deeply committed to ending NTDs within his own country.

“NTDs cause massive suffering among our poorest citizens.  As a parent, I am deeply moved by the devastating toll of NTDs on children, and I want to ensure that no Indian child has to suffer needlessly.  I am proud to serve as the END7 campaign’s ambassador in India and hope that others will join me in ridding our country of these preventable diseases.”

Why fight NTDs?

NTDs are some of the most prevalent diseases affecting India’s poorest citizens. NTDs prevent children from growing and learning. They reduce adults’ economic productivity and ability to care for their families, trapping communities in a cycle of poverty and disease. All five of the NTDs present in India can be treated with safe and effective pills in annual or biannual mass drug administrations, where entire communities are treated and protected at once.

India’s efforts to control NTDs

India has some of the largest and longstanding NTD programs in the world, but an additional 300 million people are in need of treatment. Global progress on NTDs hinges on India’s efforts and successes. India can scale up its efforts and serve as a model of success for NTD-endemic countries throughout the world.

“We have already defeated smallpox, guinea worm and polio in India.  NTDs can be our next major public health success story, and we are on track to eliminating lymphatic filariasis very soon. A focus on NTD control and elimination also represents one of the best investments we can make in the health and economic future of our country,” said Anshu Prakash, Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

More than 500 million people in India are at risk for one or more of the world’s five most prevalent NTDs: lymphatic filariasis (LF), trachoma, and soil transmitted helminths (STHs) including hookworm, roundworm and whipworm.

  • India’s national lymphatic filariasis elimination program currently reaches approximately 300 million people each year with preventive treatment, and as of the end of 2012, 147 districts were ready to assess whether lymphatic filariasis transmission has been stopped due to control efforts.  Assessing the impact of years of community-wide drug distribution is a priority for India.
  • More than 240 million children in India need deworming to protect them from soil-transmitted helminths; this accounts for 27 percent of the world’s children at risk for soil-transmitted helminths. Intergrated deworming initiatives within the country aim to protect 220 million school-age children and 120 million adolescents each year.
  • Lastly, a national trachoma program launched as early as 1962 dramatically reduced the burden of trachoma in 20 years, yet the WHO estimates that more than 3 million Indians are still living in endemic areas.

How to control and eliminate NTDs in India by 2020

India can eliminate NTDs by 2020 by continuing to get NTD treatment to all communities at risk, building up public-private partnerships, improving mapping and surveillance of NTDs, raising public awareness about the importance of NTD treatment programs, and closing resource gaps. There’s an urgent need to scale up and accelerate progress, and, as the END7 campaign ambassador in India, Abhishek Bachchan will help make this possible.

Mr. Bachchan will be instrumental in increasing understanding of the significant benefits of controlling and eliminating NTDs in India. Defeating NTDs in India will be achieved by mass drug administration programs integrated with vector control; water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH); nutrition; education; and maternal and child health programs.

This year, India celebrates its third year without a single case of polio, a cause long championed by Mr. Bachchan’s father, Amitabh Bachchan. Much like polio eradication programs, successful NTD control and elimination relies on well-organized and large-scale mass drug administration and surveillance activities. A similar effort could end NTDs in India by 2020.

View photos from Abhishek Bachchan's site visit to Orissa State, India