As we celebrate World Neglected Tropical Diseases Day on 30 January, the World Health Organization is shining a light on these devastating yet overlooked diseases by expanding the free online learning opportunities available on OpenWHO.org.
OpenWHO is launching 5 new online courses on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), for a total of 12 NTD courses hosted on WHO’s open-access learning platform. All courses are available on the NTD learning channel, which was established during the COVID-19 pandemic to enable continued training activities in the face of serious disruptions to the implementation of NTD programmes and on-site courses.
NTDs affect more than 1 billion people, mainly in the world’s poorest regions, where water safety, sanitation and access to health care are substandard. Some are associated with disabilities, deformities and social exclusion, while others are fatal without timely treatment.
NTDs are often ignored or poorly known and therefore become devastating for affected individuals and their communities. They are almost absent from the global health agenda, enjoy little funding, and perpetuate a cycle of poor educational outcomes and limited professional opportunities.
The 5 new OpenWHO courses address leprosy, tropical dermatology, supply chain management of NTD health products, visceral leishmaniasis in East Africa and post-kala-azar dermal leishmaniasis. They join existing courses on NTDs in the context of COVID-19, rabies and One Health, and 5 skin NTDs (mycetoma, podoconiosis, scabies, tungiasis and yaws), which together have 25 000 course enrolments.
The NTD courses are most popular among students, which make up more than one-third of total enrolments, as well as health care professionals (28%) and national ministries (8%). The vast majority of learners are younger than age 40 (84%), with the largest proportion of learners falling in the 20-29 age bracket (45%).
Additional courses are being developed to further expand the offering of online training resources dedicated to NTDs and support implementation of Ending the neglect to attain the Sustainable Development Goals: a road map for neglected tropical diseases 2021−2030. The road map sets global targets and milestones to prevent, control, eliminate or eradicate 20 diseases and disease groups, as well as overarching and cross-cutting targets aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals.
To shape the production of future courses, WHO’s Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases is launching a virtual survey to assess current gaps, needs and preferences in the offer of virtual tools for capacity strengthening. The survey includes 23 questions and is available in 7 languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.
The NTD courses are also being translated for broader reach, with some courses already available in Arabic, French, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. Overall, OpenWHO hosts free online courses on 131 different topics, including 40 for COVID-19, with courses in 62 national and local languages and more than 6.2 million course enrolments.
You can learn more about NTDs and World NTD Day here.