Over the past week Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine has been hosting guests from Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana and Liberia who are partners in the COUNTDOWN Consortium. COUNTDOWN is exploring novel approaches to the scale up of programmes that tackle Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) in ways that strengthen health systems.
As COUNTDOWN reaches the end of its first year the team has been busy finalising their work plans and research protocols and working with colleagues to ensure strong systems to build partner capacity and monitor and evaluate their impact.
Conversations have focused on the stakeholders and policies that COUNTDOWN will support with their research at the international and regional level. There have been tremendous strides in increasing political will to tackle illnesses which effect the poorest and most marginalised in recent years. COUNTDOWN will support the process of expanding preventive chemotherapy to those who need it and embedding high quality research in policy and practice.
COUNTDOWN’s partner from Liberia provided an update on the NTD programme, which has been rocked by the recent Ebola outbreak. Participants heard that Mass Drug Administration has recommenced, despite the loss of many key staff. Anthony Bettee, the Head of Onchocerciasis within the Liberian Ministry of Health, stressed the importance of international and regional support as the health system is rebuilt post-crisis.
As COUNTDOWN crystalises its plans, interesting discussions about evidence were being held and how to collect appropriate and rigorous data – whatever the discipline. This is particularly relevant given recent debates about the reanalysis and systematic review of the evidence for deworming.