With DFID Funding, Researchers Focus on Social Science to Address Neglected Tropical Diseases


Decatur, Georgia (March 23, 2018)


Today, the Coalition for Operational Research on Neglected Tropical Diseases (COR-NTD) announced three newly funded projects that will utilize social science approaches to accelerate the elimination of neglected tropical diseases. The studies – funded by with UK aid from the British people – aim to promote equitable access to mass drug administration (MDA) in Indonesia, Kenya, and Tanzania.

“Neglected tropical diseases impact some people – particularly the poorest and most vulnerable – more than others,” said Dirk Mueller, Senior Health Advisor for the Health Research Team of the UK Department for International Development (DFID). “The UK government is committed to promoting equity, so that no one is left behind in the fight against NTDs.”

The supported projects will investigate the barriers to equitable treatment of lymphatic filariasis (LF) and trachoma, both of which have 2020 elimination targets set by the World Health Organization (WHO). Left untreated, the diseases can lead to elephantiasis (LF) or blindness (trachoma) – which can be prevented by MDA of donated medicines in schools or at the community level.

“To reach the WHO NTD control and elimination targets, we need to understand why all community members aren’t getting medicines that prevent disability. In turn, we can support the creation of solutions to the problem,” said Patrick Lammie, Chief Scientist for the Neglected Tropical Diseases Support Center, which serves as COR-NTD Secretariat.

The three projects will be carried out through national and international research institutions in close collaboration with the ministries of health for Indonesia, Kenya, and Tanzania.

The selected studies are:


Development of Tools to Re-Orient Social Mobilization Strategies to Close the MDA Coverage-Compliance Gap


Principal Investigators: Christiana Rialina Titaley (Pattimura University, Indonesia) and Ganefa Sitti (Department of Health, Indonesia)

Collaborators: Caitlin Worrell (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), Tara Brant (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), and Alison Krentel (Bruyère Research Institute, Canada) 

This project aims to create simple, field-applicable tools to identify factors influencing medicine-taking behavior, to provide guidance on tailoring social mobilization messages based on formative research pre-MDA and to demonstrate the effectiveness of this approach in terms of change in compliance post-MDA. The ultimate goal is to empower endemic country lymphatic filariasis programs to create enhanced and targeted social mobilization strategies to ensure improved and equitable MDA coverage.


Improving Access to Mass Drug Administration for Lymphatic Filariasis Elimination using a Participatory Approach among Communities of Coastal Kenya


Principal Investigator: Doris W. Njomo (Kenya Medical Research Institute)

Collaborators: Ministry of Health, Neglected Tropical Diseases Unit (Kenya) 

The study will seek to improve access to mass drug administration among communities of varying socio-economic status by using a participatory approach to understand their preferred ways of being reached. Both urban and rural communities will be involved in the study since treatment coverage achieved in previous rounds has been below the recommended minimum.


Equitable access to Mass Drug Administration for trachoma elimination: an ethnographic study to understand factors associated with low coverage in Kenya and Tanzania

Kenya and Tanzania

Principal Investigator: Robert Geneau (Kilimanjaro Centre for Community Ophthalmology, Tanzania and University of Cape Town, South Africa)

Collaborators: Upendo Mwingira (Ministry of Health, Tanzania), Sultani H. Matendechero (Ministry of Health, Kenya), Michael Mahende (Tumaini University, Tanzania), Mary Nyamongo (African Institute for Health and Development, Kenya), and Paul Courtright (Kilimanjaro Centre for Community Ophthalmology, Tanzania)

This qualitative study is designed to provide the evidence needed to design and implement equity-sensitive interventions for elimination of trachoma as a public health problem. The main objectives are 1) to identify and understand better the factors behind low and unequal MDA coverage and compliance in trachoma endemic areas in Tanzania and Kenya with nomadic populations; 2) to prioritize factors in terms of amenability to intervention; and then 3) to use the evidence generated to design specific interventions that could improve the reach and impact of campaigns of Zithromax MDA in both countries. 


Technical support for these projects will come from the Neglected Tropical Disease Support Center at The Task Force for Global Health. 

The studies were proposed following a call issued by DFID at the annual COR-NTD Meeting in Baltimore, MD, on November 3, 2017. The selected proposals best aligned with the call’s scope: improving health outcomes in developing countries via operational research nested in national NTD programs.


The Coalition for Operational Research on Neglected Tropical Diseases (COR-NTD) includes researchers, program implementers, and their supporters with the shared goal of optimizing the control and elimination of neglected tropical diseases. The COR-NTD secretariat is the Neglected Tropical Diseases Support Center, a program at The Task Force for Global Health in Decatur, GA, USA.

 The Department for International Development (DFID) leads the UK’s work to end extreme poverty. DFID tackles the global challenges of our time including poverty and disease, mass migration, insecurity and conflict. This work is building a safer, healthier, more prosperous world for people in developing countries and in the UK too.


For media inquiries, please contact:

Chelsea Toledo

Neglected Tropical Diseases Support Center


+1 404 592 1466

Publication date: 
23 March 2018