END7 fights diseases of poverty

Photo Credit: Peter Silkowski

One of UT’s newest philanthropies, END7, pioneers the effort to get college students involved in the fight against neglected tropical diseases in the developing world.

“We want to eradicate the seven neglected tropical dieses of the world that are treatable,” END7 Communications Officer Holly Matecko said.

These seven diseases: roundworm, hookworm, elephantisis, onchoceriasis, shcistosomiasis, trachoma and whipworm, affect one in six people worldwide, and are the most common diseases of the world’s poor.

“These diseases are called diseases of poverty,” Vice President of External Affairs Maria Benson said. “They’re not necessarily deadly diseases—we call them high morbidity low mortality—which means that when people contract these diseases they can’t work, they can’t provide for their families and its very painful. It just traps these villages and these cities in a state of perpetual poverty and disease.”

END7 at UT is the first college chapter of the global non-profit END7, which was started by the President of the Saving Vaccine Institute, Dr. Pierre Cotez, to raise awareness and funds for treatments of Neglected Tropical Diseases.

When END7 at UT founder and president Grace Gannon saw Dr. Cotez speak at the Baylor College of Medicine last summer, she thought it would be a great cause for college students to support.  In Fall 2013 she and seven original executive members started the UT chapter.

In just a single year, the university’s END7 chapter has grown to around 50 members. The philanthropic aspects of the organization attract students because of its concise mission and attainable goals.

“There is a treatment for the most common seven diseases; it’s in a seven-pill packet called a Rapid Impact Packet, and you can distribute these to these people and it will treat their disease for an entire year,” said Benson. 

“It’s great because it only costs 50 cents to produce these packets, so you give me a dollar and you treat two people for an entire year,” said Benson. “If you had one of these diseases and you were treated, and you had a year disease-free, you could make money, send your kids back to school, you could have a stable income. If we have enough people in one village or in one city that can do that, then they can start to pull themselves out of poverty,” said Benson.

“Eventually they won’t need the treatments because a lot of these diseases come from poor infrastructure, bad soil bad water—it’s not in the industrialized world. It’s not just perpetual raising money to treat people that are always going to be in contact with these diseases—we are trying to get them out of that vicious cycle of getting sick and not working and being poor,” said Benson. “It’s an attainable, foreseeable goal and college students can actually see their impact.”

The only requirements for membership in END7 is to attend meetings and fundraise $50, making it simple for college students with busy schedules to join.

“I thought it was going to be difficult but it’s really surprising how many people actually donated.” Metcko said. “I asked maybe 20 people total and ended up getting $700. It’s amazing how easy it is… It’s not just a club for major specific things, it can be anyone and everyone.”

Since UT’s chapter was founded last year, 19 other colleges have established chapters of END7 on their campuses. The organization hopes to launch a network of college campuses taking a united stand against neglected tropical diseases.

Students who want to get involved with END7 can attend their meetings every other Monday at 5 p.m. in CLA 1.106, and come out to their awareness events this semester.

To stay up to date with all of END7’s events, like them on Facebook (END7 at UT).