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Filaria J. 2003 Sep 9;2(1):13.

Lymphatic Filariasis (Elephantiasis) Elimination: A public health success and development opportunity.

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  • 1Lymphatic Filariasis Support Centre, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Pembroke Place, Liverpool, Merseyside, L3 5QA, United Kingdom. fahy@liv.ac.uk

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

The Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis, launched following World Health Assembly Resolution 50.29 (WHA 50.29), has been facilitated in its progress by new research findings, drug donations, the availability of diagnostic tools, disability management strategies to help those already suffering and the development of partnerships. The strategy recommended by the World Health Organization of annual treatment with a two-drug combination has proved safe.

DISCUSSION:

Using different approaches in several countries the elimination of lymphatic filariasis (LF) has been demonstrated to be feasible during earlier decades. These successes have been largely overlooked. However, the programme progress since 2000 has been remarkable - upscaling rapidly from 2 million treatments in 2000 to approximately 60 million in 2002. Around 34 countries had active programmes at the end of 2002. It is anticipated that there will be further expansion - but this will be dependent on additional resources becoming available. The programme also provides significant opportunities for other disease control programmes to deliver public health benefits on a large scale. Few public health programmes have upscaled so rapidly and so cost-effectively (<$0.03/treatment in some Asian settings) - one country treating 9-10 million people in a day (Sri Lanka). The LF programme is arguably the most effective pro-poor public health programme currently operating which is based on country commitment and partnerships supported by a global programme and alliance. Tables are provided to summarize programme characteristics, the benefits of LF elimination, opportunities for integration with other programmes and relevance to the Millennium Development Goals.

SUMMARY:

Lymphatic filariasis elimination is an "easy-to-do" inexpensive health intervention that provides considerable "beyond filariasis" benefits, exemplifies partnership and is easily evaluated. The success in global health action documented in this paper requires and deserves further support to bring to fruition elimination of lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem and health benefits to poor people. A future free of lymphatic filariasis will reduce poverty and bring better health to poor people, prevent disability, strengthen health systems and build partnerships.

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