Social sciences research in neglected tropical diseases 1: the ongoing neglect in the neglected tropical diseases
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Allotey, P., Reidpath, D.D. and Pokhrel, S. (2010) ‘Social sciences research in neglected tropical diseases 1: the ongoing neglect in the neglected tropical diseases’, Health Research Policy and Systems, 8(1), p. 32. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1186/1478-4505-8-32.
Centuries of scientific advances and developments in biomedical sciences have brought us a long way to understanding and managing disease processes, by reducing them to simplified cause-effect models. For most of the infectious diseases known today, we have the methods and technology to identify the causative agent, understand the mechanism by which pathology is induced and develop the treatment (drugs, vaccines, medical or surgical procedures) to cure, manage or control. Disease, however, occurs within a context of lives fraught with complexity. For any given infectious disease, who gets it, when, why, the duration, the severity, the outcome, the sequelae, are bound by a complex interplay of factors related as much to the individual as it is to the physical, social, cultural, political and economic environments. Furthermore each of these factors is in a dynamic state of change, evolving over time as they interact with each other. Simple solutions to infectious diseases are therefore rarely sustainable solutions. Sustainability would require the development of interdisciplinary sciences that allow us to acknowledge, understand and address these complexities as they occur, rather than rely solely on a form of science based on reducing the management of disease to simple paradigms. In this review we examine the current global health responses to the 'neglected' tropical diseases, which have been prioritised on the basis of an acknowledgment of the complexity of the poverty-disease cycle. However research and interventions for neglected tropical diseases, largely neglect the social and ecological contextual, factors that make these diseases persist in the target populations, continuing instead to focus on the simple biomedical interventions. We highlight the gaps in the approaches and explore the potential of enhanced interdisciplinary work in the development of long term solutions to disease control.