Fostering a global partnership to stop leprosy

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    The Novartis Foundation and Novartis Healthcare Philippines joined key stakeholders from around the world in pledging to foster a global partnership to stop leprosy. The major leprosy control stakeholders made their pledge during the 20th International Leprosy Congress (ILC) held recently at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City.

    During the congress, the Leprosy Alert and Response Network System (LEARNS), the Philippines’ first mobile phone-based leprosy detection system, was recognized as a valuable tool for leprosy case finding, diagnosis and surveillance. Dr. Arturo Cunanan, Jr., Chief of the Culion Sanitarium and General Hospital in Palawan, highlighted the role of LEARNS in accelerating diagnosis and treatment.

    As part of this long-standing commitment, the Novartis Foundation has pioneered approaches in leprosy diagnostics, and approaches to leprosy screening using digital technology. One of these innovative approaches is LEARNS. The Novartis Foundation worked with the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), local IT company Metahelix and Novartis Healthcare Philippines in developing Learns.

    LEARNS allows frontline healthcare providers to send images of suspect leprosy lesions and symptoms via SMS or via an app to a specialist, who can decide on further diagnostic actions to verify the diagnosis. LEARNS currently covers 14 provinces in five regions, with phased nationwide scale-up by the DOH in progress.

    “The Novartis Foundation is privileged to be part of a global partnership to advance our common goal of making leprosy history. Our involvement in the partnership builds on three decades of experience in the area, and a long-standing commitment to exploring innovative ways to interrupt the transmission of leprosy,” said Mark Alexandre Rogers, Senior Global Program Head, Novartis Foundation.

    “Novartis will continue to work with partner stakeholders around the world in implementing the Novartis Foundation’s four-pillar strategy to interrupt the transmission of leprosy. This strategy includes early diagnosis and prompt treatment for all leprosy patients, screening and post-exposure prophylaxis for people who have contact with newly diagnosed patients, development of new diagnostic tools and surveillance systems that trigger swift intervention,” said Ms. Christine Fajardo, Corporate Affairs Head, Novartis Healthcare Philippines.