The Government of India held National Deworming Day 2016 on February 10, deworming 179 million children in 1.8 million preschools and schools. Evidence Action’s Deworm the World Initiative is the technical assistance provider to the Government of India, and is also working closely with seven state governments to implement National Deworming Day.
To increase the number of children dewormed this year, we wanted to bring private schools into the fold of this government-led program that especially target poorer children. And we did: for the first time, 170,000 private schools dewormed their pupils across the country.
Earlier this year, India held the largest public health event conducted in one day: The country dewormed 179 million children in almost all states and Union territories, according to the government’s latest figure. Deworming took place in 810,000 government schools, 800,000 preschools (anganwadi centers) and, for the first time, in 170,000 private schools. School-based deworming leverages anganwadi workers and teachers to deliver safe, simple treatment for parasitic worms.
Evidence Action’s Deworm the World Initiative is the principal technical assistance provider to the Government of India’s National Deworming Day and our team was instrumental in making it happen.
Today, Evidence Action welcomes the release of a new study that shows that mass deworming of children has a significant positive effect on child weight and is highly cost effective, with a weight gain per dollar 35 times greater than school feeding programs.
This study strongly refutes findings from a previous critique of mass deworming of children in developing countries with high levels of parasitic worms, a Cochrane meta analysis by Taylor-Robinson et al (2015.) that questioned the long-standing World Health Organization (WHO) policy supporting mass deworming.
The new research, “Does Mass Deworming Affect Child Nutrition?: Meta-analysis, Cost-Effectiveness, and Statistical Power” was authored by Kevin Croke, Joan Hamory Hicks, Eric Hsu, Michael Kremer, and Edward Miguel.
Want to know what the Deworm the World Initiative's is doing in India? Take a look!
The case for mass school-based deworming in endemic countries stands on two legs: First, the body of rigorous evidence that supports mass deworming as a cost-effective intervention. Second, mass treatment without first testing for infection is cheap, safe, and an efficient strategy for reaching lots of kids quickly. Claims in a recent paper by Calum Davey and colleagues and the Cochrane Review by members of the same research group that have been picked up in the press are based on flawed analysis, and could threaten an emerging public health success story.
What does it take to become a global leader in tackling debilitating parasitic worms in children? Speed and willingness to learn from other countries who have already done it.
This is the story of Ethiopia where in January of this year, the Federal Ministry of Health announced a national school-based deworming program that will treat over 80% of at-risk children for parasitic worms (namely, soil-transmitted helminths and schistosomiasis) by 2020. In the course of the next five years, the Ministry of Health will collaborate with teachers and health extension workers to distribute over 100 million worm treatments to at-risk children in all corners of this vast country.