Achieving health equity – lessons from the global trachoma program

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Watch live or On-demand
Monday 30th January | 19:00 GMT

On World Neglected Tropical Disease Day 2023 (30 January), the International Coalition for Trachoma Control (ICTC) and World Extreme Medicine will co-host a live webinar highlighting efforts to reach Special Populations in trachoma programs.

Trachoma is one of 20 neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO). It is the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness and 125 million people live in trachoma endemic areas globally (as of 2022).

Special populations refers to populations that are at risk of not being able to access or receive the full complement of trachoma services. This can be due to various factors, including social, ethnic, cultural, religious, and/or geographical reasons, or due to disabilities. These populations have been referred to as “statistically invisible” as disease prevalence among these populations is often obscured by the dominant population in population-based surveys. These populations include, but are not limited to, refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), indigenous and nomadic populations.

This webinar will present experiences from a range of geographical regions, international and national stakeholders working to improve health equity and ensure special populations can access interventions, when and where they are needed. It will highlight the importance of people-centred approaches, including tailored strategies and policy initiatives to improve health equity and ensure no one is left behind. Ophthalmic Surgeon, and World Extreme Medicine faculty Pavandeep Singh will host presentations and panel discussion on Neglected Tropical Disease Day 2023.

Photo Credit Peter Nicholls 2013, Northern Region, Ghana

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Session Overview

Significant progress has been made to eliminate trachoma as a public health problem. Since 2002, the number of people at risk globally has reduced from 1.5 billion to 125 million people in 2022. Furthermore, 15 countries have been validated by WHO for eliminating trachoma as a public health problem since 2012.

As the global burden of trachoma shrinks, however, an increasing proportion of the populations that remain at risk are considered hard to reach, for a range of social, ethnic, cultural, religious, and/or geographical reasons. These special populations, which include, but are not limited to, refugees, IDPs, nomadic and indigenous communities, often require tailored programmatic approaches to ensure that communities have access to interventions, and to ensure that interventions are acceptable to the communities themselves.

This webinar will include short presentations and a panel discussion highlighting the wide range of partnerships needed to effectively serve special populations.

Presentations will be delivered by:

  • Dr Martha Saboya, Neglected Infectious Diseases (NID) Epidemiology Advisor, Pan American Health Organization
  • Emma Stanford, Senior Research Fellow In Indigenous Eye Health, University of Melbourne

The presentations will be followed a panel discussion, moderated by Pavandeep Singh, which will also include perspectives from:

  • Scott McPherson, Immediate Past Chair, International Coalition for Trachoma Control
  • Dr Alemayehu Sisay, Country Director, Orbis International, Ethiopia
  • Dr Gabrielle Laing, OneHealth Policy Advisor, SCI Foundation, representing the UK Coalition Against NTDs
  • Dr Raphael Opon, Senior Medical Officer, Ministry of Health, Uganda

About Trachoma

Trachoma is the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness and one of 20 diverse conditions defined by WHO as neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Trachoma affects 125 million people globally, with people living in the poorest areas of the world, often with limited access to clean water, sanitation and health services most at risk.

Trachoma is caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis, which presents in young children as a chronic inflammation of the eyelid: trachomatous inflammation-follicular (TF) and trachomatous inflammation-intense (TI). Repeated re-infection can cause scarring of the eyelid, which leads to entropion and trichiasis; the in-turning of the eyelid with painful contact between eyelashes and the eyeball (trachomatous trichiasis or TT) and scarring of the cornea. The combination of repeated cornea trauma and secondary infections can cause severe pain and may ultimately lead to corneal opacification and blindness.

The global road map for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), published by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2021, targets trachoma for global elimination by the year 2030.

About the International Coalition for Trachoma Control (ICTC)

Established in 2004, ICTC is a multistakeholder collaboration platform for non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academia, donors and industry working together with the explicit goal to reach global elimination of trachoma as a public health problem. ICTC does this by responding to priorities raised by endemic countries through the World Health Organization’s Alliance for the Global Elimination of Trachoma (GET2020 Alliance). Guided by its strategic plan 2022-2030 and the ICTC Charter, ICTC enables a platform for members to identify gaps in the global trachoma program, share learnings, develop preferred practices, and coordinate joint programming and advocacy efforts to mobilize resources.

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