Taking Essential Steps to End Malaria, Neglected Tropical Diseases

December 12, 2012

The expansion of the Senate Malaria Working Group is an important step in highlighting advancements in global health.  The new Senate Caucus on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases, which I co-chair with Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), reinforces an essential mission: To put an end to malaria and curb the spread of neglected tropical diseases.  Like its counterpart in the House of Representatives, the Senate caucus strives to enhance awareness about proven methods of prevention and treatment that can save millions of lives.  I am hopeful that aligning our congressional outreach will lead to even more productive partnerships. 

Congress lost a true champion of global health with the passing of Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.) this year.  His work is a testament to the kind of bipartisan leadership and policymaking that can make a lasting difference.  Other contributions by the President’s Malaria Initiative have made impressive strides in strengthening America’s efforts to protect the world’s most vulnerable – particularly pregnant women and young children, who are disproportionately affected by the disease.  

There is still plenty of work to do.  Malaria remains one of the most deadly infectious diseases and threatens almost half of the world’s population, including Americans who travel to affected regions and our troops overseas.  Likewise, the risk of neglected tropical diseases extends far beyond outbreaks in Africa, Central America, and Asia.  These diseases have been reported in parts of the United States and will continue to be a threat in an increasingly mobile world. 

Global health is an investment that costs less than 1 percent of the U.S. budget and generates far-reaching benefits.  In addition to saving lives, disease prevention is a win for international security and economic development.  Great progress has been made because of new research and the availability of affordable medicines and insecticide-treated bed nets.  Malaria deaths are on the decline, affirming that the fight against this terrible disease is one we can win. 

I am proud that my home state of Mississippi is playing a meaningful role in putting an end to malaria.  Researchers at the University of Mississippi are doing life-saving work on the development of anti-malarial compounds and a new class of drugs for treatment.  The contributions of universities, policymakers, international organizations, and advocacy groups are critical to stopping malaria and neglected tropical diseases.  The new Senate caucus is a dedicated part of this collaborative effort, and I am excited about the progress yet to come.