Campus News

Globe-trotting scientist to tout bundling of public health services

Scourges such as river blindness have the power to transform thriving agricultural villages into hopeless, impoverished ghost towns. Frank O. Richards, a Carter Center scientist whose mass drug treatment programs have saved millions of people from such afflictions in Africa and Latin America, will bring 25 years of experience and insight to UGA on March 18, when he is featured in the “Global Diseases: Voices from the Vanguard” lecture series.

Although campaigns aimed at controlling or eradicating one disease at a time have been beneficial, Richards contends that integrating public health services can save even more lives and keep local economies healthier. Richards will make his case in a lecture called “Bundling Grassroots Services to Battle Neglected Diseases” at 6 p.m. in the Chapel. The event is open to the public, with a reception immediately afterwards at Demosthenian Hall.

Richards, originally trained as a pediatric infectious disease specialist, now directs malaria, river blindness, lymphatic filariasis and schistosomiasis programs for the Carter Center in Atlanta. The center is a major global player in efforts to reduce or eliminate infectious scourges that strike poor people in developing countries.

In his talk, Richards will describe how partnerships and “bundling” of community-based services are reducing poverty and disease in Nigeria—a country that he says provides evidence of “progress and hope.”

Pulling together isn’t always easy for public health programs, according to Daniel G. Colley, director of UGA’s Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases and a leading expert on schistosomiasis and other parasitic diseases.

“Obstacles and challenges are many, and Dr. Frank Richards is tackling these challenges in Nigeria, implementing creative strategies that we hope will pave the way for effective integration of programs in other places,” Colley said. “All global health experts now agree with the bundling concept for delivering disease interventions, but Dr. Richards is one of the very, very few who are actually doing it—and on some of the most debilitating and disfiguring diseases out there.”

Richards began his public health career as an epidemiology fellow at the national Centers for Disease Control, where he spent 22 years investigating disease outbreaks, leading and monitoring interventionprograms and developing educational and communication tools now used around the globe. He has been with the Carter Center since 1996.

“Richards is exactly the kind of globe-trotting, boots-on-the-ground kind of scientist that the Voices from the Vanguard series brings to campus,” said Patricia Thomas, Knight Chair in Health and Medical Journalism at UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.