A new foundation to end the neglect of three tropical diseases has been launched at Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS).
These diseases are considered huge public health problems in the three countries in which the Foundation will work: Ethiopia, Sudan and Rwanda. The Foundation is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).
Podoconiosis is a progressive, debilitating form of leg swelling experienced by barefoot farmers; mycetoma a slow-growing, destructive infection of the skin and underlying tissues; and scabies an extremely itchy infectious condition caused by skin-burrowing mites.
The ‘Social Sciences for Severe Stigmatising Skin Conditions (5S) Foundation’, which runs to 2023, is a £3.5 million collaborative research partnership between BSMS and the Mycetoma Research Centre (MRC) in Sudan, the Organisation for Social Science Research in Eastern and Southern Africa based at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, the University of Rwanda and the Institute of Development Studies (IDS).
The foundation hopes to end the neglect by “bringing social sciences to bear on these conditions” in the Development Assistance Committee-listed partner countries.
Professor Gail Davey, Co-Director of the new foundation and professor of Global Health Epidemiology at BSMS, said: “Social science research around neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) is essential if key biomedical advances are to be successfully translated into elimination and control programmes, and our research will transform the health and wellbeing of people affected by these conditions by identifying interventions informed by social science perspectives at the level of the patient, the community and national and international policy. We are looking forward to applying the experience we’ve already developed as a cross-disciplinary research group to these highly neglected conditions.
“Using a framework developed to guide research across the social sciences and fill the existing gaps, we have prioritised key areas of research. These include (at the level of the individual), deeper exploration of what it means to be affected by each disease, what affected people believe causes the condition and how the disapproval they face from their communities impacts their daily lives.”
Professor Ahmed Fahal from the Mycetoma Research Centre in Khartoum said: “National Institute for Health Research funding from the UK has helped to establish many projects at MRC. Thanks to this particular grant we will start a Social Sciences Unit as well as a Community Relations Unit that will enhance our work and benefit many patients and their families.”
The 5S Foundation officially launched on Thursday 30 January 2020, which also marks World NTD Day.
To find out more, visit the foundation’s dedicated webpage here >