Life at ZS

ZSer aims to eradicate leprosy

By Kailah Peters

Jan. 18, 2023 | Article | 2-minute read

ZSer aims to eradicate leprosy

For nearly 40 years, ZS has partnered with clients to innovate healthcare solutions across the globe. Today, we are centering our expertise and passion to address the drivers of health inequities. This work is foundational to our environmental, social and governance (ESG) mission to provide healthy, fair and sustainable outcomes for all.

Where passion changes lives

Johannes Püllen, a strategy insights and planning manager in ZS’s Zurich office, has played a pivotal role in bringing the ESG mission to life. In just his first year at ZS, he has collaborated with clients and shown tremendous growth in his role. But the project that sits closest to his heart is co-creating a leprosy roadmap with the Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy (GPZL).

GPZL is a coalition committed to ending leprosy (also known as Hansen’s disease), an infectious disease that can cause nerve damage and skin lesions. GPZL members—including American Leprosy Missions, Novartis, Sasakawa Health Foundation, ILEP and the National Leprosy Programme of Ghana—share the same goal of no disease, no disability and no discrimination or stigma, known as a triple zero vision.


“Before the project, I did not fully appreciate the substantial impact that leprosy continues to have on so many communities,” Johannes explains. “Millions of people all over the world are still affected by it and face many challenges regarding their access to appropriate treatment.”


Communities harmed by this illness face many struggles, but two stand out—a lack of resources and social stigma. “There is a lot of stigma related to leprosy that can lead to aversion, social ostracism and loss of employment,” Johannes says. “Because of this social stigma, populations across these regions of the world often do not or cannot access care.”


However, “The World Health Organization (WHO) set a goal to eradicate leprosy by the year 2030,” Johannes notes. “One important part of this goal is to improve diagnostics. And this is where ZS comes into play.”


As part of our partnership with GPZL, ZS is collaborating on a roadmap to develop and implement two leprosy diagnostic tests: One to confirm leprosy in people who show symptoms, and the other to screen families and communities of people affected by leprosy. It is very common for people to have leprosy for years without showing symptoms. By testing affected communities, the WHO hopes to catch the illness early and provide better treatment for the people impacted.


Developing the diagnostic tests is just the first step. There are many questions we still need to understand. Where do we get funding? Who will produce these tests? And how do we ensure countries will order the test?


To solve for these challenges, ZS assembled a team of experts from Europe, India and the United States. Headed by principals Judith Kulich and Jill Vettese, the team capitalizes on a broad expertise in health equity. The team leverages research, the GPZL network and ZS expertise to understand the most important next steps in eradicating leprosy.


“At ZS we want to create impact that matters. This matters,” Johannes says proudly. “The outcome of our project will help communities in need. We are working to help get these tests to people in need, people who otherwise would not have access to diagnostics and eventually appropriate treatment.”


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