Philippines Launches Ambitious Multi-Disease Elimination Plan on World NTD Day

31 Jan 2024
Representatives from the Department of Health, USAID, and WHO gather at the Philippines Multi-Disease Elimination Plan Launch

In a momentous celebration, the Philippines marked a pivotal moment for the health and well-being of Filipinos with the launch of its Multi-Disease Elimination Plan (MDEP) on World Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) Day. The event included high level representatives including Dr. Teodoro Herbosa, Secretary of the Philippines Department of Health and Atul Gawande, Assistant Administrator for Global Health at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The event showcased the nation's commitment to an integrated approach in the fight against infectious diseases.

"The Department of Health's Multi-Disease Elimination Plan is ambitious and exciting. USAID is proud to be a partner in it. The plan will establish the Philippines as a global leader and sharing the knowledge and progress can help the whole region build a healthier future," said Dr. Gawande.

The MDEP sets a visionary goal for the Philippines: to achieve zero or reduced new infections of priority diseases through an effective health care system by 2030. The plan, developed by the Philippines Department of Health (DOH) with support from the USAID Act to End NTDs | East program and partners, was created as a result of increased understanding of the need to ensure that previously siloed infectious disease programs are integrated into primary health care and included in a long-term plan for universal health coverage.

From Left to Right: Andrea Halverson (USAID), Dir. Ma. Elizabeth Caluag (DOH), Usec. Enrique Tayag (DOH), Dr. Bayo Fatunmbi (WHO), Sec. Teodoro Herbosa (DOH), Asec. Lilian De Leon (Department of Interior and Local Government), Dr. Atul Gawande (USAID), Lisa Rotondo (RTI International), Dr. Joseph Shott (USAID). Photo credit: U.S. Embassy in the Philippines

This revised strategy is a paradigm shift in disease elimination efforts and will require technical, managerial, and financial integration across sectors and departments, including environmental, education, and animal health. The ambitious plan identifies 13 diseases targeted for elimination, based on a thorough examination of disease burden and feasibility of achieving elimination or significant reduction of the disease. A key component to these elimination efforts is the strengthening of the national health system to ensure ongoing treatment, care, and surveillance are part of a robust primary health care package.

“The Philippine Multi-Disease Elimination Plan is a first of its kind to integrate several select vaccine preventable and infectious diseases for elimination in one strategic plan, including NTDs, that provides guidance on priority activities for 2024-2030 until the SDG NTD goals are realized,” said Dr. Herbosa, Secretary of Health.

The three primary goals of the MDEP are to 1) eradicate polio; 2) stop transmission of yaws, measles, rubella, malaria, leprosy, and rabies; and 3) reduce the number of new infections of lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis, mother-to-child transmission of HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis B, and maternal and neonatal tetanus below the threshold of being considered a public health problem.

“The successes we celebrate today are a testament to the Department of Health’s steadfast commitment to a long-term and integrated vision for disease elimination, which has been instrumental in propelling progress and challenged us to think differently about how we move forward together,” said Lisa Rotondo, Director of the Act | East program.

As the Philippines embarks on this transformative journey, these collaborative efforts symbolize a shared commitment to a healthier and more prosperous future. The launch ceremony underscores the nation's determination to create a future free from the burden of these diseases. The MDEP stands as a testament to the Philippines' leadership in the global fight against neglected tropical diseases, paving the way for a brighter and healthier tomorrow.

Representatives sign the wall of commitment during the World NTD Day 2024 celebration in Manila, Philippines. Photo credit: U.S. Embassy in the Philippines