19 February 2019 · Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy

Steps forward: upcoming research agenda, country strategies and collaborations

Secretariat Director Courtenay Dusenbury reflects on positive steps in the last year

Courtenay in Bihar, India, June 2018

The formal report of the International Task Force on Disease Eradication (ITFDE) meeting on leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, last April outlined six important conclusions and recommendations. Published in WHO’s Weekly Epidemiological Report 11 January, the recommendations are a stark reminder of how much is still unknown about the disease, and how much more needs to be done to develop the research, global targets, anti-discrimination initiatives, funding and other tactics necessary for Zero Leprosy.

At the same time, as we reflect on the ITFDE recommendations today, the many positive steps forward by the leprosy community since last April are impressive and heartening. With an aligned research agenda, and tools and strategies to work in partnership with national programmes, the community is actively seeking out opportunities to work together, and encouraging others to do the same.

Our willingness to respectfully hear, understand and appreciate the views of others is what makes this community special.

Less than a year after the ITFDE discussed its recommendations, the leprosy community, including the Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy’s 425+ members, have taken strong steps forward on each of them. WHO guidelines that include new interventions have been published. Initial work on global leprosy targets post-2020 is underway at WHO and a survey to obtain feedback on these garnered 182 responses and will be important to informing the selection of new targets and how they are measured. The Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy research agenda, developed with the input of more than 140 individuals, is nearing completion, and will point out (among other priorities) the need to consider a diagnostic test for leprosy, and to collect, analyze and take action on better and more complete data. The identification of new funders to further support the important existing contributions of current partners (including the Novartis Foundation, ILEP members and ministries of health) are a key component of our  advocacy and resource mobilization strategy for 2019.

Differences of opinion about methods and approaches will always be a part of our community, as they are for many others. Our willingness to respectfully hear, understand and appreciate the views of others is what makes this community special.

Everyone who gave freely of their time to move the leprosy discussion and debate forward last year had something important and unique to contribute toward our shared goal. We look forward to continuing this positive momentum forward in 2019.

Written by Courtenay Dusenbury, Secretariat Director, Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy