The final steps in leprosy eradication in Myanmar?

Participants included doctors and programme officers from disease control programmes.
12 October 2017

Despite ongoing efforts to control leprosy in Myanmar, the last decade has seen little change in the incidence of disease. The elimination target of 1 case per 10,000 people was achieved in 2003, since then little has changed with more than 3,000 people being newly diagnosed with leprosy each year.

The control of leprosy is hampered by the existence of hot-spots where disease rates remain high. To achieve the eventual eradication of the disease it is necessary to identify where these hot spots are, why they occur and what can be done to control  transmission within them.

Disease mapping is an essential part of this process. Furthermore, case-management efforts must be targeted to areas with the highest burden of disease. There is a drive to co-map leprosy with other NTDs, to support integrated case management of neglected tropical diseass (NTDs) as this offers improved cost-effectiveness, accessibility, and sustainability of NTD management.

Myanmar’s National Leprosy Control programme is currently seeking to work with other disease control programmes in the country to sustain control efforts and further reduce the burden of NTDs in Myanmar. As part of this strategy, the Leprosy Programme recently hosted an innovative new workshop in Nay Pyi Taw  to train doctors and public health officials to map leprosy, lymphatic filariasis and trachoma.

Dr. Daw Thandar Lwin, Deputy Director General of the Myanmar Department of Public Health, formally opened the workshop. Her speech focused on the need to establish a clear understanding of the distribution of the burden of disease and disability caused by NTDs, to inform targeting and integration of control and case management activities. The end goal of this work is to reach all people affected by NTDs, so they receive the treatment they need to live healthy and productive lives.

Being able to identify and map the distribution of disease burden was a core component of the 5-day workshop led by representatives from the London Applied and Spatial Epidemiology Research (LASER) group based at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, in partnership with the AIM initiative. Workshop participants were trained to use the open source application QGIS to produce maps and analyse spatial data, essential for the planning and monitoring of disease control activities.

Participants also learnt how to calculate epidemiological indicators such as case detection rates and the proportion of cases diagnosed with disability.

Speaking about the potential lasting impact of the workshop LASER’s Dr Jorge Cano who, along with Hope Simpson, led the training said,

 “Building the capacity of stakeholders in Myanmar to effectively manage data, analyse and map these diseases is an important step in strengthening the country’s surveillance activities and ultimately its ability to assign diseases such as leprosy to the medical history books.”

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