What can the trachoma community teach us about partnerships?

A drug distributor measures tablets for community members at a mass drug administration in Mozambique. Photo by: Danny Haddad / International Trachoma Initiative

Over 20 years ago, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter went to pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and asked the company to join the fight against trachoma. The disease could not be eliminated without mass administration of antibiotics, which at-risk countries — such as Ethiopia, South Sudan, and dozens of others across Africa, Asia, Latin America, Oceania, and the Middle East — could not afford.

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Explore the lessons the trachoma community has learned about partnerships throughout its journey in tackling disease.

The Carter Center, a nonprofit founded by the former president and his wife, Rosalynn, was leading the fight against a number of neglected tropical diseases and needed the private sector to support its trachoma control program. Pfizer agreed. Thus began one of the longest-standing cross-sector partnerships in global health.

Trachoma — caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis — is an NTD that affects an estimated 1.9 million people with blindness or visual impairment around the world. Repeated infections lead to scarring on the inside of eyelids, causing them to turn inward in a process called trichiasis. Eyelashes then rub against the eye, damaging the cornea and eventually altering eyesight. Trachoma is currently the leading infectious cause of blindness worldwide and is both a cause and a consequence of poverty.

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