Request for Proposals: Research to Address Special Topics in Leprosy

This page describes a call for proposals which has since closed. 

The Neglected Tropical Diseases Support Center (NTD-SC) at The Task Force for Global Health is currently soliciting proposals for operational research to address special topics in leprosy.  

This RFP will contribute to a further understanding of how to address leprosy within communities and the health system. Despite the introduction of multi-drug therapy 30 years ago, an average of 200,000 new cases of leprosy are diagnosed annually. With the discovery of the benefits of post-exposure prophylactic (PEP) treatment for contacts of an individual with leprosy, there is increased potential to interrupt transmission. However, significant challenges remain in the operationalization of PEP, as cases must be identified and willing to share information so that their contacts can be treated. With the stigma associated with leprosy, thiese challenges represent a significant hurdle that will inhibit the scale up of PEP as a public health strategy. 

Research supported by this call would help define existing barriers and opportunities in order to provide guidance as to how local health services can leverage existing platforms to ensure sustainability as they roll out PEP and other novel strategies. Additionally, developing community engagement strategies can help to reduce some of the social stigma that individuals face when seeking care for leprosy. At the clinical level, developing tools or strategies to strengthen understanding about leprosy and its manifestations will help to improve the diagnosis and treatment for those affected and their contacts. This is especially important when thinking about maintaining knowledge as prevalence decreases and clinicians do not regularly see suspected leprosy cases.

With this RFP, the NTD-SC is soliciting research proposals to:

  1. Address health worker knowledge and attitudes regarding suspected leprosy case diagnosis and treatment, particularly in light of decreasing prevalence;
  2. Pilot sustainable integration of leprosy services;
  3. Explore the potential to enhance deployment of PEP treatment and achieve acceptance and adherence (e.g., by improving acceptability, addressing barriers/opportunities, improved screening methods, etc.); and
  4. Identify ways to improve community understanding about leprosy so as to build social cohesion around treatment and prevention and to reduce associated stigma.

Examples of potential research topics might include:

  • Integration and/or strengthening of leprosy-related services in existing health services;
  • Integration of leprosy into routine in-service training programs at all levels of the health care system to ensure knowledge maintenance over time;
  • Analysis of leprosy knowledge and understanding among endemic community members and development of strategies to improve awareness and reduce stigma;
  • Investigation of the role of NTD drug distributors and other non-formal health workers in sensitizing community members about leprosy, its prevention and symptoms;
  • Development and assessment of rapid screening methods for large numbers of at-risk people including self-screening, educational approaches, and combined screening for other NTDs;
  • Use of epidemiological and GIS methods to identify geographical clusters of cases in both urban and rural settings for the application of rapid screening and/or intensified case finding protocols;
  • Solutions to ensure equity and integrate hard-to -reach populations that are affected by leprosy; and
  • Exploration of the social and behavioral barriers and opportunities for a potential rollout of PEP and other control measures (i.e. acceptability, community ownership, risk of discrimination/stigma, and identification of cases and contacts). 

This is not an exhaustive list of topics to be funded, and other relevant ideas will be considered.

With this call, the NTD-SC seeks proposals that are nested within national programs and which establish a foundation for integrating NTD-related activities into national health systems. Projects will be funded with UK aid through the UK Department for International Development via the NTD-SC, which serves as Secretariat for the Coalition for Operational Research on NTDs (COR-NTD).

Applications will be evaluated based on the following:

  1. Well-formulated research question that addresses the theme of the call
  2. Whether the proposed research is nested within the national NTD program
  3. Collaboration between national and international research teams
  4. Scientific merit of the research questions and methods
  5. Plan for knowledge translation
  6. Value for money

Maximum duration of the project: All research activities, analysis, and final technical/financial reports must be concluded and submitted by 27 February 2021.

Submission: Submissions are made through a web form, available here

Deadline for submission: Midnight EST on February 7, 2020