Neglected tropical diseases challenge for students


Neglected tropical diseases, or NTDs, affect over 12 million people in the U.S. and 1.4 billion people worldwide, yet have historically received little attention. Closely linked to poverty, these diseases are often disabling or fatal if left untreated. Despite their name, they also affect a large population of those living outside the tropics, including those living in the southern U.S.

Researchers at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy have created a competition for undergraduate and graduate students to bring attention to NTDs. Comprised of two challenges, this program is an innovative way to start the conversation on how best to combat diseases not given enough attention from the global medical community. The Baker Institute created these contests to involve a new generation of students in issues in public health. The first challenge is a student engagement essay, for which participants are asked for their ideas to make a difference in the lives of those living with NTDs. The second challenge is a children’s outreach concept, where participants are asked to design a product that would teach children about NTDs. While the deadline for the first challenge is today, March 20, the second challenge has a deadline of June 3.

For the product design challenge, students are encouraged to use their creativity to engage children in an authentic way. Some examples of possible products include book ideas, plays, educational materials or toys. Several states already successfully manage public health initiatives that engage youth and children to be active in caring for their own health. Instead of focusing on children as targets of interventions, a new paradigm envisions youth as active participants in public health initiatives as a means to building resiliency.

Contest prizes include a $500 Amazon gift card, and a trip to Houston for a conference on NTDs at the Baker Institute. Most exciting is the possibility that your concept could be used in outreach activities!

More information about the contests can be found on the Baker Institute’s website.

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Without continued support for health research, many of the most promising young scientists, their ideas and a myriad of potentially life-changing scientific breakthroughs will vanish into oblivion.
Paul Marinec, PhD; University of California San Francisco