Close to one billion children worldwide are infected by soil-transmitted helminths, better known as worms. Infected children are nutritionally, physically, and cognitively impaired—robbing them of their full human potential.
There are multiple global efforts to eliminate this burden, primarily by mass drug treatment. Logically, these treatment efforts focus on administering medication at schools to reach a large number of children at one time. But for pastoralist families, who are often semi-nomadic, there are large gaps in coverage. These hard to access children are critical to global campaigns for their own health and to eliminate a source that can later reinfect already treated children.
Fortunately, the Allen School has worked for several years with pastoralist communities in connection with our partners in the Serengeti Health Initiative. Dr. Felix Lankester developed a strategy to link rabies vaccination of dogs in the pastoralist communities with mass drug treatment to eliminate worms. At first glance, these two efforts, vaccination of dogs and drug treatment of children, may appear incongruous, however Dr. Lankester knew that years of rabies vaccination campaigns had gained the trust of the pastoralist communities and that this would allow unique access.
With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr. Lankester has implemented this program with the goals of increasing coverage for both the drug treatment and the rabies vaccination—and to save costs by combining transport and personnel costs. This effort illustrates the Allen School’s faculty commitment to not only implement, but to lead through innovation. As always, on behalf of the Allen School faculty, staff, and students, our global partners, and, most importantly, the people we serve, thank you for your continued support.
Creighton Endowed Chair and WSU Senior Director of Global Health