Marcel Tanner obtained a PhD in medical biology from the University of Basel and a MPH from the University of London. He is director of the Swiss Tropical Institute and Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Basel. Since 1977, his research has ranged from basic research on the cell biology and immunology on malaria, schistosomiasis, trypanosomiasis and filariasis to epidemiological and public health research on risk assessment, vulnerability, health impact and district health planning. His research, teaching and health planning expertise are based on substantial long term experience from working in rural and urban areas in Africa (mainly Tanzania, Chad, Burkina Faso and C´te d©^Ivoire) and Asia (China, Thailand, Laos). He has coordinated the first African malaria vaccine trial in 1992 and participated recently in several major intervention trials on malaria (iron supplementation, intermittent treatment) and schistosomiasis (prophylactic effect of artemether). He has published 277 original research papers as well as numerous book chapters and reviews.
New challenges for research partnerships to alleviate disease burden and poverty
Renewed global campaigns to alleviate the burden of the diseases of poverty such as HIV/Aids, TB and malaria are timely and of greatest need. They find their justification in the following key reasons:
- Public health services, particularly in Africa, have suffered a generalized collapse and many earlier diseases control efforts have been abandoned leading to an upsurge of morbidity and mortality as exemplified by the case of malaria and TB.
- The current tools of control can already have a substantial impact if applied in an integrated approach and tailored to the communities concerned, particularly the impoverished communities.
- The advances made and to be made in genomics merit to be fully explored.
- The momentum of new global initiatives in the public and private sector should be kept and translated into public health action.
In this regard the Global Fund to Fight HIV/Aids, TB and Malaria is timely and welcomed. It will complement key initiatives at the level of basic and applied research as well as the new steps towards public-private partnerships.
Using malaria control as an example, the ongoing basic and applied research will be briefly summarized in relation to the potential of new public-private partnerships. In addition, emphasis will be placed on the fact that it seems to be largely unnoticed in the currently prevailing discourse that contemporary corporate malaria control, analogous to the integrated programs of the past, is ongoing and successful. These programs could now be linked via public-private partnerships to expand the domain of their coverage. The Global Health Initiative of the World Economic Forum could play an important role in fostering such partnerships. Knowledge gained from such initiatives could be used to develop more effective public sector initiatives. Thus, the way forward entails (i) strengthening and promoting health systems management that allows the tailoring of integrated control programs to local settings; (ii) identification, recruitment and training of local personnel and (iii) linking land and water management with health. This was recognized and acted upon in the successful programs of the past.
Implementation of these lessons learnt form the analysis of malaria control can be generalized for the diseases of poverty and call for an in-depth business plan as it has recently been attempted for tuberculosis control. Combining such business plans with the rapidly expanding funding base for public and private control initiatives will enable the successful development of innovative strategies of diseases control and the sustainable alleviation of poverty.