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What is a Neglected Disease?


One of the funny, maddening things about global health is all the terminology people use that seems to lack precise definition. Global health itself is fairly imprecise and debatable, as it turns out.

Flickr, by David M*

I wrote yesterday about the “most neglected disease” in global health — mental illness. Those who work at bringing mental health therapies to poor countries contend, with good evidence, that mental illness is a huge contributor to disability.

But even the powerful and well-funded cancer research industry claims it is neglected, at least when it comes to global health. Others are pushing to get more chronic diseases, like diabetes or heart disease, on the agenda.

So what makes a disease neglected?

Wikipedia contends they are tropical diseases that afflict poor countries.

An organization devoted to this issue, the Global Network of Neglected Tropical Diseases, similarly identifies 13 parasitic and bacterial diseases that disproportionately afflict people in poor communities.

Which diseases do you think are neglected?


About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.