Secretary to the Prime Minister of Solomon Islands Dr Jimmie Rodgers
Global experts at the Malaria World Congress (MWC2018) predict that eradication of malaria could build health security and improve health systems.
Malaria eradication could benefit not only individual, but collective, health security and create a platform to tackle future disease, Professor David Heymann from independent policy institute Chatham House told the World Malaria Congress today.
He said historic eradication programs of ebola virus, smallpox, polio and guinea worm had been of benefit to individual health security but had missed many opportunities to improve collective health security and national health systems.
Professor Heymann was speaking at a session on Malaria and Health Security on day two of the inaugural Congress, co-organised by Burnet Institute and attracting more than 1000 delegates from 69 countries around the world.
“I think there’s a great opportunity for malaria to make sure that both individual and collective health security are a part of the program and that health systems are strengthened with the activities,” he said.
“Working within the framework (and health systems) you can really have both collective and individual health security.”
Professor Heymann said there were three essentials in any eradication program - technical feasibility, global advocacy, and negotiation to engage political will.
He said malaria eradication was technically feasible; global advocacy was building up (he said it was fortunate to have one of the world’s wealthiest men in Bill Gates promoting the issue), but negotiation for political engagement and commitment was the most difficult thing to achieve.
One of the great risks was missing the window, he said. After smallpox was eradicated, a US soldier had a clinical response to the smallpox vaccine that was linked to AIDS.
“We know today we would not be able to use the vaccine that was used to eradicate smallpox safely in communities where there is a high prevalence of HIV,” he said.
“We actually eradicated smallpox within a window of opportunity that we didn’t know existed. The moral of the story, if taking advantage of the tools for control and elimination that are available today, is that the windows of opportunity for best possible control may close at any time and this is not predictable.”
Secretary to the Prime Minister of Solomon Islands Dr Jimmie Rodgers told the conference seminar on Health Security that three Pacific nations were on track to meet their agreed-upon deadline of malaria elimination by 2030, with Vanuatu making the best progress, Solomon Islands not far behind and Papua New Guinea, with more cases and trickier geographic terrain, facing the biggest challenges.
“But we are all moving towards the elimination target,” he said.
Elimination would reduce risk to neighbours as well.
“With Australia helping us, we’ll be helping them back in return,” he said.
Strengthening health systems to fight malaria would also help resource Pacific nations to tackle their high rates of obesity and diabetes, he said.
He said meetings like the Malaria World Congress had a great opportunity to make change, not just to malaria but to future health security and systems.
“We can all be very happy if we can look back in 10, 20 years and say that meeting in Australia did actually come out with benefits that ensured the generations of tomorrow are enjoying a world with less malaria and better health security."