ILDS & WHO 2023 Skin NTD Summit Synopsis: Key Takeaways and Results
The Skin-NTD Mini Summit reviewed past milestones and focused on the future. Its dual goals were to spotlight the Geneva Meeting's insights and provide the newly formed WHO Skin NTD Working Groups with a collaborative platform.
In a continuing global effort to address skin health and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), the joint ILDS and WHO Skin NTD Mini Summit was held on 20 September 2023 at the Kibo Room, Hyatt Regency, Dar es Salaam, within the broader NNN Conference framework. This event followed on the heels of two significant gatherings earlier this year.
March 2023 witnessed the monumental First Global Meeting on Skin NTDs in Geneva, Switzerland, coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO). This assembly established its direction based on the WHO NTD Road Map 2021-30. Not long after, the 76th World Health Assembly Side Meeting on Diseases of the Skin occurred on 24 May 2023. Spearheaded by the International League of Dermatological Societies (ILDS) and supported by the Anesvad Foundation, it garnered global allegiance, rallying esteemed figures from prominent health institutions to champion the mission of "Skin Health for All."
The Mini Summit, while reflecting upon past achievements, was primarily forward-looking. Its twofold purpose was evident: highlighting key takeaways from the Geneva Meeting and offering the newly instituted WHO Skin NTD Working Groups an in-person collaboration forum. Participants and speakers from across the globe, including Ethiopia, Niger, Nepal, India, Mali, and Brazil, joined the event in person and virtually. In total, over 100 in-person attendees and 39 joined virtually.
Key Presentations and Announcements
Dr Michele Murdoch, NNN Skin-Cross Cutting Group Chair, kickstarted the event, briefing participants on the day's lineup and expectations. Dr Kingsley Asiedu, from the WHO Global Neglected Tropical Diseases Programme Skin NTD Team, gave an enlightening presentation on skin NTDs in the context of the Global Neglected Tropical Diseases Programme of the World Health Organization. He shed light on the WHO's NTD Road Map 2021-30 goals and objectives and discussed the ten skin NTDs, each with its roadmap target ranging from eradication and elimination to control. Dr Asiedu emphasised the importance of integrating efforts for skin NTDs, noting that their commonalities allow for better case management, increased cost-effectiveness, and expanded coverage for treatment. Integration is crucial in achieving the 2030 targets for all NTDs, strengthening primary health care and supporting Universal Health Coverage.
The summit highlighted the progress of the NTD 2021–2030 road map and introduced the WHO's strategic framework for the integrated control and management of skin-related neglected tropical diseases. This strategic blueprint, launched on June 8, 2022, paved the way for establishing the Skin-NTD Working Groups. Each of the twelve Working Groups, ranging from "Integration at country level" to "Psychosocial aspects," has a specific focus to tackle the challenge of skin NTDs holistically.
Dr José Antonio Ruiz-Postigo, from the WHO Global Neglected Tropical Diseases Programme Skin NTD Team, discussed WHO’s innovative efforts in training and capacity-building. As of December 2022, OpenWHO, the online course platform of the World Health Organization, reported impressive figures, with 7.6 million total course enrolments in over 200 course topics. Specifically, there are 20 free online courses on Neglected Tropical Diseases, with over 40,000 learners enrolled in skin-related courses. Dr Ruiz-Postigo also introduced the Diagnostic WHO Skin App, which merges with the SkinApp from NLR. This app, which can work offline, includes algorithms for 24 common skin diseases.
Prof Gail Davey, Medical Epidemiologist at the Brighton and Sussex Medical School, University of Sussex, presented the progress of the Skin NTD Operational Research Working Group. After the initial WHO Skin NTD meeting in March 2023, chairs and keynote speakers were contacted in April, leading to the identification of core members by May. A draft term of reference was developed between May and July. The first wider Working Group meeting was held on 6 September 2023. An impressive call issued in May 2023 yielded over 800 responses, with 55 people choosing the Operational Research Working Group as their first option. The meeting saw participants from 20 countries, with 59 representatives from diverse backgrounds, such as Ministries of Health, implementing partners, researchers, funding bodies, and disease advocacy groups.
Prof Lulyritha Kini, Vice-Principal of the Regional Dermatology Training Centre (RDTC) in Moshi, Tanzania, provided an overview of the centre's efforts. Founded in 1992, RDTC offers various training programs for healthcare workers, from Advanced Diplomas to MMed in Dermatovenereology, all tailored to Sub-Saharan Africa. With the largest dermatology clinic in Tanzania, the RDTC handles over 11,000 outpatient visits annually. They also conduct outreach programs and interventions, serving many patients with various skin conditions, including Scabies, Leprosy, Filariasis, and Onchocerciasis. Looking ahead, the RDTC aims to expand its research activities and outreach efforts, increase publications, and perhaps become a WHO collaborating centre.
Breakout Sessions and Feedback
Participants were then divided into focused breakout sessions. These smaller groups offered WHO Skin NTD Working Group members the opportunity to intensify collaborative talks, exchange knowledge, and fine-tune their blueprints. Following these intense discussions, a feedback session was organised where each group presented the outcomes of their deliberations. For example, the Integration at Country Level Working Group, chaired by Dr Kingsley Asiedu and Dr Rie Yotsu, outlined their area of work as follows:
- Integration Alignment: Ensure endemic countries align activities with the skin NTD framework and roadmap, collaborating with stakeholders.
- Country Ownership: Advocate for the skin NTD framework's inclusion in national health policies, promoting sustainability.
- Progress Monitoring: Periodically review and recommend enhancements to bridge implementation gaps.
- Experience Exchange: Foster knowledge-sharing among countries, incorporating insights from affected individuals.
- Expert Network: Establish a specialist group for technical support in endemic regions.
- Coordination: Liaise with other groups to guarantee synergy and prevent activity duplication.
The Advocacy and Communication Working Group, chaired by Dr Anna Wickenden (Effect Hope), detailed their work area as follows:
- Awareness: Elevate knowledge of skin NTDs among stakeholders, funders, policymakers, and the public.
- Resource Allocation: Champion the distribution of essential resources for skin NTD prevention, control, and treatment across all levels.
- Policy Prioritisation: Push for skin NTDs' recognition on national and global health agendas.
- Integration: Back the inclusion of skin NTDs in comprehensive health and development schemes.
- Information Sharing: Gather and share success stories, best practices, and case studies with member entities.
- Communication Strategy: Formulate evidence-led communication plans to convey skin NTD impact, prevention, and treatment.
Towards a Collaborative Future
The Skin NTD Mini Summit is symbolic of the overarching drive to prioritise and address the global implications of skin NTDs. Through strategic collaborations, the pooling of resources, and the integration of multi-faceted efforts, the collective vision of "Skin Health for All" appears to be an achievable goal. As global health landscapes evolve, such summits underscore the imperative of unity, clear strategy, and sustained commitment in the collective journey to improve public health outcomes.