World Malaria Day With Nothing But Nets: An Experience in Advocacy

Nothing But Nets Group Photo

In late April, the 2017 Nothing But Nets Malaria Leadership Summit brought a team of advocates to Capitol Hill to speak with lawmakers about need for greater investment in reducing the impact of malaria worldwide. (Photo credit: Nothing But Nets)

By Thomas E. Anderson, Ph.D.

As a Science Policy Fellow of the Entomological Society of America, I recently participated in the 2017 Nothing But Nets (NBN) Malaria Leadership Summit in Washington, DC, with Capitol Hill visits on World Malaria Day, April 25. This experience was very energizing and encouraging, demonstrating that, despite political divides, there are many dedicated people working hard to achieve bipartisan solutions to challenging problems.

The NBN program has been around for more than a decade and is picking up momentum as experience has demonstrated its effectiveness. The goal of NBN is to minimize the terrible impact of malaria around the world, especially in developing nations. It started in 2006, when Rick Reilly’s groundbreaking column, titled “Nothing But Nets,” appeared in Sports Illustrated. Readers learned that it only takes $10 to cover the purchase, distribution, and education to ensure that a bed net makes it into a mother’s hands, into a home, and over a bed to save the life of the child sleeping under it. Rick’s column sparked a movement that has raised more than $50 million to help NBN’s partners at the United Nations and other international organizations deliver more than 7.5 million bed nets to protect families in sub-Saharan Africa from malaria. Over the past 10 years, hundreds of thousands of people have joined the UN Foundation’s Nothing But Nets campaign to send nets and save lives, conveying the message that ending this disease is a global—and personal—priority.

Much progress has been made in the fight against malaria. In 2015, there were roughly 212 million malaria cases and an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths. Increased prevention and control measures have led to a 29 percent reduction in malaria mortality rates globally since 2010. Sub-Saharan Africa continues to carry a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden. In 2015, the region was home to 90 percent of malaria cases and 92 percent of malaria deaths, according to the World Health Organization. NBN recently issued a virtual reality video, “Under the Net,” the powerful story of an 11-year-old refugee girl named Amisa. Struggling to survive each day, and with no protection from mosquitoes that carry malaria at night, we experience Amisa’s life through her eyes.

Thomas Anderson at Capitol

Thomas E. Anderson, Ph.D., is a Science Policy Fellow of the Entomological Society of America who participated in the 2017 Nothing But Nets Malaria Leadership Summit in April in Washington, DC. (Photo credit: Thomas E. Anderson, Ph.D.)

The “Nothing But Nets” Leadership Summit provided nearly 120 participants with training needed to be effective advocates for malaria awareness. The message is simple and compelling: We can control malaria and save lives! Yet, there is serious concern that significant budget cuts in foreign development programs will reverse the progress made so far. This is the message we took to Capitol Hill on April 25. Along with my South Carolina partners from the Summit, we met with the staffs of Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Tim Scott (R-SC), Richard Burr (R-NC), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and State Representatives David Price (D-NC), and George Holding (R-NC). The NBN Malaria Day experience built on the work I have already been doing and will continue as an ESA Science Policy Fellow.

Solutions to malaria and other critical issues are within our grasp. As a science advocate, I believe that it is my duty to advocate for my discipline. Join me! The ESA Science Policy Fellows program offers ESA members the training and opportunities to connect with the public and policymakers to promote important issues and programs that truly make a difference. You, too, can be an advocate for science. Send in your application for the Science Policy Fellows program at ESA. The application deadline for the Class of 2017 is June 1.

Thomas E. Anderson, Ph.D., is an industry consultant and the owner of Entoniche Consulting, LLC, in Clayton, North Carolina. Anderson is retired as the Global Insecticide R&D Group Leader for FMC Corporation in Ewing, New Jersey. He is also a member of the ESA Science Policy Fellows Class of 2015. Email: tom@entoniche.com

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