In January, we celebrated World Leprosy Day and our commitment to more than 30 years in the fight against leprosy with our global partners.
In an article for the Thompson Reuters Foundation, Dr. Ann Aerts, Head of the Novartis Foundation, explained why the last mile toward leprosy elimination is the hardest and the most resource intensive.
On social media, we raised awareness of the disease and the strategy we are implementing with our partners to go the last mile toward the elimination of leprosy.
In February, PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases published our manuscript, Leprosy Diagnostic Test Development as a Prerequisite Towards Elimination: Requirements from the User’s Perspective. In the article we outlined the attributes of a diagnostic test that would support the strategy to eliminate leprosy. The attributes were developed by an international expert panel convened by the Novartis Foundation.
In March our telemedicine project in Ghana was nominated for the DAC Prize of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee. To support this, we published an animation to illustrate the project and explain our approach.
You can read more about our telemedicine program here .
In April, Ann and key leprosy experts made a call for redefining leprosy elimination as zero leprosy transmission, a comment that was published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases. It argues that declaring leprosy eliminated in 2000, following the WHO definition of elimination as a public health problem (prevalence of less than 1 patient per 10,000 population), was premature and mainly eliminated funding for leprosy.
In April, we published the report of our second in a series of NCD Dialogues, co-hosted by the Novartis Foundation and the Centre for Global NCDs of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, at the end of 2015. The dialogue focused on innovative hypertension management models which are showcased in the manuscript. Those models that prove successful and can be sustainable at scale may very well become applicable to other NCDs as well.
Watch experts explain what lies at the heart of innovation in hypertension management:
Ann delivered a keynote address on why we as a society need to focus our efforts on the emerging challenges of urban health. Read more about the meeting here.
In May we launched the Communities for Healthy Hearts program in Vietnam, our second innovative incubator model for hypertension. The program is designed to improve healthcare provision for adults living with hypertension, aiming to improve detection and management of the condition in Ho Chi Minh City, home to the largest urban population in Vietnam. Nearly 25% of the adult population in Vietnam has hypertension, and the prevalence is higher in urban areas.
We are collaborating on Communities for Healthy Hearts with PATH, the Ho Chi Minh City Provincial Health Department and the Hanoi School of Public Health.
To date, Communities for Healthy Hearts has developed a campaign to increase hypertension awareness and more than 300 blood pressure check points have been set up. In 2017, screening opportunities will be ramped up to offer blood pressure check points in many more local businesses.
Ahead of our dialogue event in June, we invited a number of regional and international journalists to visit our programmatic work in Ghana. The trip illustrated first-hand how those initiatives are addressing local healthcare challenges.
They visited our telemedicine program in Ghana’s Amansi West region and the teleconsultation center at the District Hospital in Agroyesum.
The journalists also visited the ComHIP program in Lower Manya Krobo, a district close to an urban center in the Eastern region of Ghana.
In June, we relaunched our quarterly newsletter in a new online format. In the first edition, Ann reflected on our activities and the progress the ComHIP and Communities for Healthy Hearts programs saw in the first half of the year.
If you would like to stay up to date with our work, you can sign up to regularly receive our newsletter here.
Our dialogue event, Wired for impact: digital health at scale in low- and middle-income countries, took place in Accra, Ghana. The event brought together experts in digital health and showcased examples of successful chronic disease management programs from across Africa. The most important enabling element for digital solutions to achieve sustainability at scale was identified as being local ownership.
To support the event, we created a microsite in collaboration with Devex, and extended the dialogue on Twitter via the event hashtag #Wired4Impact. If you missed the dialogue event, you can watch its webcast here.
In an article in Project Syndicate, Ann highlighted the rising burden of hypertension and the need for innovative healthcare delivery models to tackle non-communicable diseases across low- and middle-income countries.
As part of our commitment to the fight against leprosy, we participated in the leprosy symposium hosted by the Nippon Foundation and the Pontifical Council for Health at the Vatican. Here, the Novartis Foundation, along with a number of other global health organizations, discussed prevention, treatment, assistance and research, and reviewed the success of current strategic approaches at global level. The discussion led to a series of recommendations to help eliminate leprosy, which included:
• to conduct further research into new medicines, diagnostics and vaccines to accelerate reduction of the leprosy burden;
• to tackle the risk of losing the know-how for leprosy that has been acquired over decades; and
• to create follow-up mechanisms to monitor actions by states for removing all forms of discrimination or derogatory language about leprosy.
The first meeting of the Governing Council for the UN Technology Bank took place on 26–27 July 2016 at UN Headquarters. Ann was nominated as a member of the Governing Council, which will provide support to the UN Secretary General in undertaking the necessary steps toward the operationalization of the Technology Bank and, in particular, in formulating principles and policies governing the activities and operations of the technology bank.
This gives the Novartis Foundation further opportunity to advance the policy recommendations in line with the recommendations outlined in the digital health report we developed for the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development.
In September, we showcased our leprosy elimination programs at the 19th International Leprosy Congress in Beijing. We presented 11 abstracts that demonstrate progress of the key programs within our leprosy elimination strategy to interrupt transmission.
The Novartis Foundation strategy was launched in 2013 to prioritize early detection and treatment; contact tracing and preventative treatment; strengthening of surveillance systems to make them action-oriented; and developing tools for faster and earlier diagnosis.
In conjunction with the conference, Ann argued that world leaders must go the last mile toward leprosy elimination in an article in STATnews.
We were also excited to launch our LinkedIn channel in September. Here, we share information about our programs, activities and opportunities to work with us. If you would like to join our growing community, you can connect with us here.
In October we launched the Hypertension Working Group of the International Consortium for Health Outcomes Measurement (ICHOM). This group is tasked with defining standard health outcomes for hypertension in low-income settings. ICHOM is a consortium between Harvard University, the Boston Consulting Group and Karolinska Institute. The standard set for hypertension outcomes in LMICs will be the first set ICHOM has specifically developed for low-income settings.
In October BMC Health Services Research published the paper describing our eTIQH tool: Embedding systematic quality assessments in supportive supervision at primary healthcare level: application of an electronic Tool to Improve Quality of Healthcare in Tanzania.
The tool was developed in collaboration with the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute to provide more efficient supervision of health workers, allowing managers to provide real-time performance feedback. Validated in Tanzania, eTIQH has proven to be one of the most efficient ways to enhance quality of care and has now been translated and packaged for roll-out in Mali. For this digital tool, we performed an evaluation of the two pathways to scale: bottom-up (the Tanzanian example) or top-down (representing the approach chosen in Mali) and found that both approaches have pros and cons – success is only guaranteed when there is local buy-in of the benefits of supportive supervision.
The World Health Summit (WHS) brings together stakeholders and decision-makers from every field in the healthcare spectrum, providing a forum for exchange with experts from academia, industry, politics and civil society.
Ann presented in two sessions on non-communicable diseases at the World Health Summit in Berlin. The Novartis Foundation’s programs and focus areas including cardiovascular diseases in low- and middle-income countries as well as the need for innovation in healthcare delivery were discussed. Ann explained that this is more vital than ever before due to the rapid urbanization and growing burden of NCDs, coupled with the insufficient capacity of local health systems to address those needs.
Watch the sessions here.
In November the LPEP team brought our implementation and academic partners together in Sri Lanka at the Annual LPEP Meeting to review progress and share lessons learned from across the pilot countries.
In November we hosted the third NCD dialogue event in Basel, Switzerland, together with the Centre for Global Non-Communicable Diseases of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
We explored person-centered approaches to improving hypertension management in low- and middle-income countries. The event brought together a wide range of experts from the World Health Organization, PATH, Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, Boston University and Emory University, as well as government delegates.
If you missed the event, you can watch it here via our webcast.
We also launched our new online gallery in November. The gallery features a selection of photographs and details from our programs around the world. We are proud to work with such talented photographers, capturing the people on the ground where we work – from Ghana to Vietnam, Tanzania, India, Myanmar and many other countries.
You can view and share #GlobalHealthStories via the gallery, which you can access here.
In December we provided a preview of the Broadband Commission’s digital health report at the Global Digital Health Forum in Washington, DC.
The report is entitled: Digital Health: A Call for Leadership and Cooperation between ICT and Health and has been developed with our partners in the Broadband Commission Working Group on Digital Health. The Novartis Foundation and Nokia co-chaired the group, which is part of the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development.
The report points out that in order to realize the full potential of digital health as an enabler to accelerate the achievement of Health for All (SDG3), three key principles are needed: senior government leadership and sustained financing, effective intragovernmental collaboration and governance mechanisms for digital health, as well as national ICT frameworks.
We were excited to launch the final report at the Mobile World Congress in February 2017. You can download the report and its executive summary here.