THE Department of Health (DOH) has asked the public, health workers and health advocates to take a more “passionate stance” in eliminating neglected tropical diseases (NTD).

Six NTDs affecting the country are rabies, leprosy, schistosomiasis, filariasis, soil-transmitted helminthiasis, and food and waterborne diseases.

DOH Secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial said the treatment of these diseases is available for free in all government health facilities, but those who have NTDs don't seek treatment because of the stigma.

“We can eliminate NTDs because there is a cure. So the most important thing is really to go out there and find out who are sick and give them the medications and drugs. The stigma is the main hurdle we have to overcome,” she said.

Ubial was in Cebu City yesterday for the 5th Stakeholders Forum on the Control and Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases.

As of 2016, Ubial said 10 of 28 provinces in the country eliminated schistosomiasis as a public health problem; 35 of 45 endemic provinces eliminated filariasis; 41 areas were declared rabies-free; and 17 of 79 surveyed provinces reduced the prevalence of soil-transmitted helminthiasis to less than 20 percent.

Leprosy, on the other hand, maintained the national elimination target of less than one per 10,000 population.

DOH then emphasized the four areas that need to be concentrated on to end NTDs. These are interrupting the disease's transmission, eliminating the stigma, halting the progression of the disability and overcoming the effects of the NTDs.

The secretary said DOH targets to end NTDs by 2030, but she challenged health workers and health advocates, who attended the forum, to eliminate the problem even earlier.

“We should try to push ourselves because we are not doing this for ourselves but for our people. The more we push ourselves, the more people we save from all these illnesses. The more people we save, the greater are their contribution to national development,” she said.