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13 Jun 2012
The Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development, together with CIOMAL Foundation convened an experts’ meeting on innovative solutions to tackling the last mile of leprosy on 31 May 2012 in Geneva. The meeting was part of the ongoing Geneva dialogue series hosted by the foundation on global health issues and covered issues including improving early detection, new technologies to support access to treatment, and the importance of stakeholder partnerships and collaboration to drive the momentum in ending leprosy.
Denis Daumerie, World Health Organization (WHO), presented the history of leprosy, its current situation in the world today, and the positive role of Multi-Drug Therapy (MDT) in leprosy treatment. Daumerie said that the existing community of partners should collaborate more to develop more research, diagnostic tools and methods of prevention, and stated that “the way forward for leprosy starts today.”
York Lunau, Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development (NFSD, presented on SMS for Life TL, an innovative SMS technology based initiative to reduce the stock outs of leprosy and tuberculosis drugs in health facilities in Tanzania. The data collected through SMS for Life TL, including numbers of required drug treatment amounts, could be used to help locate new leprosy cases and improve the early detection of leprosy-affected patients.
Harald Schmid de Gruneck, CIOMAL Cambodia, discussed CIOMAL’s holistic approach to leprosy care in Cambodia that includes prevention activities and medical, psychosocial and economic rehabilitation activities. Schmid de Gruneck proposed that early detection of leprosy improves with information-education-communication, quality disability care and innovative approaches to case finding. Schmid de Gruneck reflected on the success of CIOMAL and NFSD’s 2011 and 2012 contact surveys, which uncovered 251 new cases of leprosy across 20 districts in Cambodia.
René Stäheli, International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations (ILEP), presented innovative approaches to leprosy care across ILEP’s member organizations. For example, ILEP member organizations are developing a diagnostic tool to locate infected, but healthy leprosy-affected persons. Stäheli questioned the ability to completely eradicate leprosy relaying concerns with political will, effective interventions and sufficient funding.
Sunil Anand, The Leprosy Mission Trust India, presented a study on delayed self-reporting of leprosy-affected persons. Ninety-five percent of leprosy-affected people in the study were not aware that they had leprosy. Anand proposed that advocacy and counseling in communities and technical training of healthcare staff could help remedy the low skills levels of identifying leprosy.
Participants called for more contact surveys to help seek out leprosy-affected patients and support effective treatment. Concerns over leprosy becoming a neglected disease within the realm of neglected diseases sparked requests for further partnerships and collaboration. Klaus M. Leisinger, NFSD, concluded the dialogue by urging participants to take action before the International Leprosy Congress convenes in 2013.