For the first time, stakeholders across 10 neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) have collaborated to develop a unified framework to assess progress against these devastating and preventable illnesses, which affect more than 1.6 billion of the world’s poorest people.
The framework, created by the Uniting to Combat NTDs partnership, consists of two components: an instrument called the Action Framework to identify gaps and Impact Dashboards to quantify progress. As in past years, The Task Force’s NTD Support Center helped shepherd Uniting’s annual progress assessment, under the umbrella of the Uniting support center, which is hosted at the UK-based Sightsavers.
Since its formation six years ago, Uniting has produced an annual scorecard and report to celebrate progress and call attention to the principal challenges to control, eliminate or eradicate certain NTDs by 2020 – a timeline that the World Health Organization (WHO) set as part of a comprehensive NTD action plan in 2012.
That same year, stakeholders across the NTD community came together at a seminal meeting in London and pledged their support to control and eliminate ten diseases by the end of the decade. They also agreed to keep themselves accountable with a scorecard.
Five years later, Uniting decided to evaluate the existing scorecard approach and convened NTD stakeholders to discuss how the progress tracking method could evolve to become more usable and useful.
“Last year, we gathered broad input and formed a working group representing all 10 diseases that could drill down into the feedback. That is how the scorecard evolved into the Action Framework and Impact Dashboard,” says Joanna Pritchard, MA, who manages the scorecard project at The Task Force.
Instead of one scorecard, stakeholders now have the Action Framework and the Impact Dashboards to assess progress as a community. The Action Framework is a standardized gap analysis tool using qualitative input from stakeholders across the NTD community. The Impact Dashboards display quantitative data sourced from WHO and pharmaceutical companies, with standardized indicators across diseases.
The two new tools are designed to strengthen coordination and collaboration between the public and private sectors, accelerating global efforts to meet the 2020 disease control and elimination goals. “We want this to foster dialogue and catalyze action and cross-disease learning,” Pritchard says.
The new framework has yielded some positive outcomes with one being that stakeholders are taking the lead on areas that were identified as needing collective action. Pritchard says seven priority themes emerged during the process. These are areas presenting common challenges or bottlenecks across the ten diseases, or opportunities to leverage success stories for cross-disease learning – and in some cases, both. For instance, diagnostics were identified as an urgent area for collective action because as the goals and situation change, the tools must evolve to meet the need.
The new frameworks address some limitations of the previous scorecard including variable indicators across diseases and scoring criteria that needed more clarity. The data inputs for the action framework are standardized, comparable and specific, and the indicators on the impact dashboard are consistent so it’s possible to measure progress against a set of diseases. “Partners have also endorsed the transparency and participation of the new process,” Pritchard says.
In upcoming iterations of the tools, the partnership hopes to see stronger engagement with national programs and the WHO. “With 2020 fast approaching, this effort needs to support WHO in pursuing the new global roadmap goals that are now being set for 2030.”