The access of PNG national researchers to postgraduate level studies will build leadership capacity for the country.
Dr. Lucy John, from the National Department of Health of Papua New Guinea, attended the 68th annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene (ASHTM) (National Harbor, USA, November 20 to 24, 2019). Dr. John, principal investigator of the team implementing the “Yaws 3 Trial” project in Namatanai Region in collaboration with Dr. Oriol Mitjà, shared with the participants of the meeting the initial results of the project.
The “Yaws 3 Trial” aims at establishing the best strategy for distribution of azithromycin to eliminate yaws. Once finished, the results will inform the global eradication strategy led by the World Health Organization (WHO). In particular, Dr. John will present the results of one of the branches of the study, entitled “Pharmacokinetic study of co-administration of drugs for the integrated treatment of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs)”, which has received funding from the International Trachoma Initiative (Atlanta). This study will constitute a paramount contribution to the fight against several NTDs that are highly prevalent in PNG: Yaws, Lymphatic Filariasis (LF) and others like Trachoma or Soil-Transmitted Helminths. They affect impoverished communities, causing irreversible disabilities that generate pain, stigma, and render impossible for the people suffering from them to find their way out of poverty. These conditions can be treated by means of massive administration of medication, whereby treatment is distributed to all the inhabitants of the affected communities, in order to treat active and latent cases, for which no symptoms are visible. Dr. John’s research aims at establishing the possibility of combining the treatments of NTDs, instead of providing them through individual campaigns, in order to provide additional cost-efficiency to the struggle against both diseases.
If successful, not only will Dr. John’s research will contribute to a faster control of NTDs in PNG, but also in other co-endemic countries in Africa and the Pacific. The potential of her research is therefore enormous. The leadership exercised by Dr. John is equally significant, as it highlights the great multiplier effect of training researchers in low- and middle-income countries. The “Yaws 3 Trial” project, which has enabled the progressive achievement of knowledge and responsibilities among all the researchers involved, has generated a scientific synergy that has allowed to strengthen the capacities of local actors. Within the framework envisioned by Dr. Sibauk Bieb, former Executive Manager Public Health, the access of members of the PNG team to masters and PhD studies has been promoted to ensure that lasting capacity is built, and their expertise remains in place over time.