University of Copenhagen coordinated EU project ’ADVANZ’ puts Neglected Zoonotic Diseases in the international limelight

The fourth International Meeting on the control of Neglected Zoonotic Diseases (NZDs) was held on 19–20 November 2014. The meeting was initiated by the European Union FP7 project ADVANZ (Advocacy for Neglected Zoonotic Diseases), coordinated University of Copenhagen at the Institute of Veterinary Disease Biology by professor Maria Vang Johansen and Christopher Saarnak.

The meeting was hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO) at its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, and opened by the Assistant Director-General, Dr Nakatani.

AWARENESS AND NZDs
NZDs are found in communities in low-resource settings across the world, where they impose a dual burden on people’s health and that of the livestock they depend upon. ADVANZ has since 2012 been working for further raising awareness of these diseases, and have been supported through the project’s advisory board consisting of members from the WHO, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). In May 2013 the World Health Assembly adopted Resolution WHA66.12 on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) which has enhanced the visibility of NZDs – notably rabies, cysticercosis, echinococcosis, human African trypanosomiasis, foodborne trematodiases and leishmaniasis. The other neglected zoonoses are also being addressed, such as anthrax, bovine tuberculosis, brucellosis and leptospirosis.

FROM ADVOCACY TO ACTION
Much of the initial momentum for action against NZDs was catalysed by the first meeting on NZD control in 2005. The fourth international meeting on NZDs acknowledged the momentum generated by the NZD community over the past decade, urging the more than 100 participants from all continents of the world – including representatives from national governments, international organizations, academia, foundations, the private sector and NGOs – to exert their influence and focus on operations.

Clear themes that emerged throughout this meeting were the need for political commitment, sustainable One Health collaborations and the identification of local champions to drive community participation in control. Examples of programmes making significant progress in the control of some NZDs, both at national and local levels from across three continents, were provided by some countries.

Dissemination of the knowledge gained through these programmes provides significant encouragement to country partners that the control of NZDs can indeed be achieved with currently available tools. ADVANZ presented the project’s NZD One Health advocacy package, which can be viewed in a preliminary version at http://advocacy.advanz.org. Challenges undoubtedly remain regarding refinement of control tools and their application in low-income settings, these should not prevent large-scale implementation of control programmes. There is now the opportunity to capitalize on the existing knowledge, experience and political will to move ‘From Advocacy to Action’.