Neglected tropical diseases: Canadians making progress in global health goals

This post originally appeared on the Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research blog. Check out their network promoting equity in health worldwide.

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a group of treatable and preventable diseases which affect over 1.6 billion people in the world’s most marginalized and remote communities. You might not have heard of them as NTDs, but you may have heard of them by their individual names: leprosy, dengue, rabies, intestinal worms or elephantiasis among others.

NTDs are both a consequence and cause of poverty, thriving where access to clean water, sanitation and healthcare are limited. NTDs disable, disfigure, stigmatize, and sometimes kill – keeping children out of school, adults out of work and affected individuals with lifelong disability.

Who is the Canadian Network for NTDs, and what are our key priorities?

The Canadian Network for NTDs (CNNTD) is a vibrant network of interested Canadian researchers, program managers, interested individuals and organizations who mobilize Canadian action to end suffering from NTDs. Our mission is to generate interest and support from the Canadian public about NTDs, and advocate for the elimination of NTDs to be a key part of Canada’s global health priorities.


People collecting household water from a community tap. Access to clean water helps prevent people travelling to lakes and rivers which contain NTD vectors. Photo credit: effect:hope

Compared to HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis, NTDs are overlooked globally, accounting for low levels of overseas development assistance for health. Financial support for research and development for NTDs significantly lags behind AIDS and other better-known diseases.

Canadian researchers and NGOs are an integral part of the global NTD and public health community, representing Canadian leadership on the global stage. Canada’s commitment and experience in women’s and girls’ health is a highly valued contribution to the global NTD community. Canadian researchers are world-leaders in their field and undertake NTD research in at least 30 NTD endemic countries around the world. Closer to home, Canadian NTD researchers also work on pharmaceutical development and the relationship between human, animal, and environmental health.

Like everyone, over the past few months we’ve been focusing on adjusting our work environments and schedules and thinking about our work program in light of COVID-19. More than ever, we see that a focus on NTDs in research and health programming is important in helping everyone build back better from COVID-19.

One of our key priorities has been supporting the World Health Organization’s (WHO) prioritization of NTDs within the global health agenda. A significant policy to guide NTD work over the next ten years is the WHO NTD road map 2021-2030 will be launched later in the year. At its heart, it seeks to promote resilience, health system strengthening, integration, equity and country ownership to power progress toward the control and elimination of NTDs by 2030.

Highlighting Canadians on the world stage


A woman being measured for elephantitis, a symptom of an infection with an NTD called lymphatic filariasis. Photo credit: effect:hope.

Across the latter half of 2020, WHO alongside the NTD global community, has been hosting a series of webinars on the road map and its cross-cutting themes. The aims of the webinar series are to make innovation, development and research a key focus, guide actions that build stronger primary and community health care, foster integrated approaches that yield better health outcomes, and to keep country ownership, people and communities at the centre.

Between June and August, CNNTD celebrated progress and research on NTDs as part of a series of webinars:

Canadians Alison Krentel and Priscilla Pangan, joined others in the global community to talk about how Canadian youth have been engaged for NTD action at the webinar on focused on youth and the 2030 NTD road map targets.

We’re looking forward to continuing the conversation and highlighting Canadian achievements in the upcoming series of webinars. Themes of the upcoming webinars which will be of interest to Canadians include:

  • How WASH will serve as a crucial pillar in accelerating and sustaining progress towards the 2030 targets.
  • How innovation can be fostered in the post-COVID-19 environment and the innovation needed against NTDs to reach the 2030 targets.
  • How a One Health and Global Vector Control Response approach can be used to help reach the 2030 targets.

What next?

We’re excited to share the progress towards the launch of the new road map with the Canadian research community. CNNTD is open to new individual and organization members. Joining our network is free. Benefits of membership include:

  • Connect with the people, researchers and organizations that share your passion for the place of NTDs in the global health conversation.
  • Receive regular updates about funding opportunities, new research, and news and events related to NTDs in Canada and across the world.
  • Receive invitations to Canadian and global NTD and global health events.
  • Opportunity to become a member of our Steering Committee.
  • Work with us to develop new initiatives and have your say on our policy and advocacy activities.
  • Access technical resources on NTDs.
  • Nominate a person to become our Student and Young Professionals Ambassador.
  • Recognition on our website and at our events.

We encourage you to check out our website, follow our news and updates on TwitterFacebook and our mailing list. We look forward to sharing more news of our activities and opportunities to get involved with these Canadian tackling global health goals.