What makes a life worth living? For many of us, it’s our relationships with our families and loved ones, the ability to follow our passions, excel at work, and improve opportunities for ourselves and future generations.
While tremendous efforts are underway to prevent deaths worldwide, guaranteeing survival is not enough. We must also strive to ensure that every human lives a life of quality.
Nearly half the world’s population is robbed of the minimum requirements that allow them to reach their full potential. Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), parasitic and infectious diseases affecting 1.4 billion people worldwide, debilitate entire families and communities. They cause anemia and malnutrition, and can lead to blindness, school absenteeism, disfiguration and the loss of livelihoods. NTDs drastically weaken a person’s health and cause unnecessary suffering.
At the basic level, access to adequate nutrition, the opportunity to be educated, the ability to enjoy human interaction, and the right to prosper and contribute to society all make a life worth living. Yet NTDs rob the billion and a half people living in poverty of these basic needs and undermine other development challenges like maternal and child health. In order to flourish, these needs must be met.
Life isn’t just about the number of days we live, but the quality of those days. Every human, no matter where they were born, has the right to a fulfilled life and the right to determine their own future.
By fighting NTDs, we can help protect the health of the world’s poor and vastly improve their quality of life, increasing opportunity and equality. And it’s inexpensive and easy to do so. For less than 50 cents per person per year, we can control and eliminate NTDs altogether within the decade.
Solving this global health challenge will require collective action. In an e-world where communication is often reduced to three letter acronyms, LwL – Life worth Living is a way of thinking about and raising awareness of the social, psychological and developmental impacts of NTDs. LwL has universal appeal as self-examination for “haves” and “have-nots” in a broader understanding and value of life. As a concerned global community, we can work together to ensure all people have the tools they need to live their life worth living.
LwL is a symbol that reminds us to be mindful as we go about our daily lives and reflect on what constitutes a life worth living – not only for us in the healthy or developed world, but for those suffering from poor health and poverty as well. If we as a community can reflect on LwL, we can help ensure a healthier and happier life for all.
Neeraj Mistry, MD, MPH, is managing director at the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases and recently spoke at the Aspen Ideas Festival’s Spotlight: Health, a forum on the state of health domestically and internationally. With a focus on advocacy and resource mobilization, he creates partnerships and bridges cross-cutting development themes to grow and strengthen the movement of controlling and eliminating neglected tropical diseases.