Research!America and global health experts focus on economic and health burdens of neglected tropical diseases in the U.S.

Dean Pierre Buekens

School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine dean
Pierre Buekens welcomes panelists and attendees to
the Research!America NTDs forum.

More photos below.

At a recent panel discussion in the SPHTM Diboll Auditorium hosted by Research!America, several researchers and leading public health experts said the nation must increase public awareness and research to address the emergence of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in the U.S. 

“Tulane has a long history of addressing neglected tropical diseases. Researchers at the school have contributed to the effort to know more about and help curtail or eliminate diseases such as Chagas, dengue and leishmaniasis,” said Pierre Buekens, MD, professor and dean, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. “Efforts have focused on studying the epidemiology of diseases such as these, understanding the molecular biology, and developing effective vector control programs.”

NTDs, commonly associated with the developing world, have recently been identified in many parts of the country including Louisiana. Factors such as increased globalization, trade, migration, urban sprawl or climate change have been cited as potential underlying causes for the emergence of NTDs in the U.S. Chagas disease, which can cause heart failure, affects more than 300,000 people across the nation and costs the U.S. an estimated $1 billion in health care and lost productivity each year. Researchers at Loyola University New Orleans identified the first locally acquired case of Chagas disease in Louisiana.

To combat the health and economic burden of NTDs, researchers at Tulane University, Loyola University New Orleans and Louisiana State University (LSU) are working with local and federal agencies to develop new tools and treatments for use here and abroad. The importance of NTD research was underscored when the World Health Organization recently pledged to eliminate or control 10 NTDs, such as visceral leishmaniasis, which causes internal organ damage, by the year 2020.

“We’re seeing NTDs emerge and re-emerge, further straining our health care system and putting the health of many Americans at risk, yet our federal agencies that track and research these diseases are scaling back their work due to budget cuts,” said Jennifer Chow, director of global and public health at Research!America. “Without robustly funded public sector research, not only will local communities suffer, but the nation as a whole will pay a higher price.”

“We are thrilled to host this important event on the school campus as diseases such as Chagas, dengue and West Nile are becoming more of a threat to our state and to the world,” Buekens added.

In addition to the panel discussion, the premiere screening of a video highlighting NTDs in the U.S. was shown at the event ( The video features stories of patients affected by NTDs and the researchers and medical staff that treat patients like them. NTDs affect more than 1.4 billion people worldwide and are often fatal or disabling if left untreated.

About Research!America
Research!America is the nation’s largest nonprofit public education and advocacy alliance working to make research to improve health a higher national priority. Founded in 1989, Research!America is supported by member organizations representing 125 million Americans. Visit
NTD Panelists

Dean Buekens introduces forum panelists.

Dawn Wesson

SPHTM Tropical Medicine professor Dawn Wesson (center) presented at the forum.

Gathering Info

Research!America provided loads of information about NTDs.

Forum Attendees

Deep discussions during the lunch break.

May 15, 2013


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