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Neglected Tropical Diseases


Project description

Melissa Parker

Since 2005, I have undertaken more than 12 months ethnographic fieldwork in north western Uganda and northern coastal Tanzania. The primary focus of this fieldwork has been to examine social responses to National Control Programmes seeking to control schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminths and lymphatic filariasis. These so-called ‘neglected tropical diseases’ affect millions of poor, marginal people in East Africa and the current National Control programmes in Uganda and Tanzania are part of a major global initiative to meet the Millennium Development Goals. My research involves collaborating with parasitologists, epidemiologists and public health practitioners from the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, Imperial College and the Ministries of Health in Uganda and Tanzania. Working as an anthropologist on a multi-disciplinary team, I have developed a research programme that explores some crucial questions: Why do so many adults reject free treatment for diseases that cause significant mortality and morbidity? Are the most neglected populations, the least likely to accept treatment? Does the voluntary, human rights approach underpinning current strategies to control neglected tropical diseases work against the interests of the poor, neglected populations that they seek to assist? How can the fortunes of these well-intentioned national control programmes be reversed? How can insights from the biological and social sciences be combined to understand and respond to difficulties arising?

This research builds on some of the doctoral research that I undertook on schistosomiasis in northern Sudan in the 1980s. It led to collaborative links being developed with SCI, Imperial College and the London School of Economics, with funding being provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. An indicator of the success of this multi-disciplinary, collaborative project is that the team were awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Academic Excellence in 2008.

Publications arising from this research

Allen T and Parker M 2011. The ‘Other Diseases’ of the Millennium Development Goals: rhetoric and reality of free drug distribution to cure the poor’s parasites. Third World Quarterly 32 (1): 89-115.

Parker M and Allen T 2011. Does mass drug administration for the integrated treatment of neglected tropical diseases really work? Assessing evidence for the control of schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminths in Uganda. Health Research Policy and Systems 9: 3 This article is freely available from the World Health Organisation’s Tropical Disease Research website.

Parker M, AllenT and Hastings J 2008. ‘Resisting control of neglected tropical diseases: dilemmas in the mass treatment of schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminths in northwest Uganda.’ Journal of Biosocial Science 40 (2): 161-181.