Children Without Worms (CWW) recently welcomed Dr. David Addiss, MD, MPH, as its new Director. Dr. Addiss, who possesses a strong background working in neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), joins the program at an exciting time for CWW and for control of soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STH) as a public health problem. CWW has received commitments for scaled up donations of mebendazole from Johnson & Johnson and albendazole from GlaxoSmithKline, new countries have been invited to receive these donations, and the STH Control Committee has also welcomed new leadership.
In October, David Addiss, MD, MPH, became Director of Children Without Worms (CWW). Dr. Addiss assumes leadership of the organization at a very exciting time for the control of soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STH) as a public health problem. The program recently received expanded commitments of mebendazole donations from Johnson & Johnson and albendazole donations from GlaxoSmithKline. These new commitments have energized global efforts to control and eliminate STH as a public health problem and have attracted considerable interest from potential partners and donor agencies.
Dr. Addiss comes to CWW with a strong foundation in global health built on work in neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), with a focus on control of lymphatic filariasis (LF). While working at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), he served as the CDC representative to the Mectizan Expert Committee, a committee convened by the Mectizan Donation Program (MDP) of the Task Force for Global Health. As a result, he became familiar with CWW when the program was established and developed great respect for the CWW and MDP programs and the Task Force for Global Health.
The opportunity to work with CWW attracted him for a number of reasons. CWW’s systematic and holistic approach to STH control and its long-term vision for elimination of STH as a public health problem impressed Dr. Addiss. Equally important to his decision to join CWW, Dr. Addiss says, was that “I wanted the opportunity to make an impact and relieve suffering on a global scale.” He says, “The scaled up donations from the two major pharmaceutical companies and funding provide that opportunity.”
Dr. Addiss notes, “It’s very exciting to be in a program at a time when things are so dynamic and catalytic.” In the near-term, he plans to facilitate the scale-up of the capacity of countries and other stakeholders in the STH community to take advantage of the significantly increased donations.
In the long-term, he believes, “CWW can play an important role in building strong relationships between the many stakeholders involved in STH control and helping them coordinate and align their strategies and efforts to make the most impact.” He emphasizes that CWW already does this through participation and representation in the Neglected Tropical Diseases NGDO Network. The Network provides a forum for discussions and sharing best practices for those working to control the five major NTDs: LF, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, STH and trachoma.
In addition, Dr. Addiss sees CWW as helping identify areas for research around STH. He states that this research might include “examining the impact of sanitation and hygiene in decreasing STH transmission and sustaining the gains made through drug treatment.” He would like the program to help develop best practices, especially for scaling up STH control programs to include all at-risk children.
Before coming to CWW, Dr. Addiss worked with the Task Force for Global Health to produce a documentary that highlights compassion in global health as a core value and source of inspiration and motivation for many who work in the field. However, the film also notes that global health organizations, training programs or conferences rarely acknowledge or discuss the topic. Consequently, he feels, “The full potential of compassion in global health is not realized.” He hopes that in this time of rapid program expansion, the CWW team will continue to “see the faces” of the children the program seeks to serve.
Dr. Addiss believes that working with an evolving program in a dynamic field presents great opportunity, but also some challenges. He says, “We all seek change, but also resist it. Managing and anticipating the changing environment, which includes new program countries, expanded donations, and others will likely be at the root of all our challenges—and those of our partners.”
Meeting these challenges and maximizing CWW’s opportunities to expand STH control efforts globally are where Dr. Addiss intends to focus much of his energy. As Director of CWW, he feels he has “opportunities for growth in knowledge, awareness and competency.” He says he will also benefit from the ability to “connect with people across great distances to align with them toward a common goal.” Dr. Addiss concludes, “Our team is eager to contribute. We’re also energized by the potential that now exists to address the problem of STH.”