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Curing leprosy worldwide

Health was the focus of Tuesday’s LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce Early Bird Breakfast.

The guest speaker was Dr. David Addiss from the Task Force for Global Health. He currently serves as the Task Force’s Director of the Focus Area for Compassion and Ethics and Senior Advisor to the Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy.

Addiss spoke about how the task force operates, and why people all over the world should be concerned about global health initiatives.

“Global health is local health, so the health issues that are important to you are important at the global level,” Addiss said. “The solutions from those problems may come from in the community and outside. That’s why this idea that we are all in this together is so fundamental.”

The task force collaborates with other health leaders in a mission to solve large-scale health issues affecting the world. They put an emphasis neglected tropical diseases that cause problems such as blindness, disfigurement, cognitive treatment, stunted growth and death.

Addiss specifically discussed river blindness in Africa and how the Task Force has helped treat it for decades.

“The communities gather once a year, and they will take a drug all at the same time. In time, over years, we can eradicate and eliminate these diseases,” Addiss said. 

The task force is also working to eliminate leprosy. Addiss said they estimate around 4 million people in the world have leprosy, and every two minutes someone else develops the disease.

Through multi-drug treatment, the number of cases per year have lowered to around 200,000 each year. According to the World Health Organization, in the years between 1997 and 2017, more than 16 million leprosy patients were treated.

“We have seen a huge decline in the number of cases over the last 12 years,” Addiss said. “But you can see the number of cases around the globe is 200,000 per year, but it’s just sort of hovering there. Tantalizingly close to elimination, but we have a lot of work to do.”

For more information on the task force, visit www.taskforce.org.