This collection of articles provides an account of the papers delivered at the 19th International Conference of the World Association for the Advancement of Veterinary Parasitology (WAAVP) (held in New Orleans, LA, USA, from 10 to 14 August 2003) in a symposium session on assessing the burden of Taenia solium cysticercosis and echinococcosis organised and chaired by A. Lee Willingham III from the WHO/FAO Collaborating Center for Research and Training on Emerging and other Parasitic Zoonoses in Denmark and Peter M. Schantz from the Parasitic Diseases Division of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USA. The focus was on the persistence of the zoonotic parasitic diseases cysticercosis, caused by the pork tapeworm T. solium, and echinococcosis, caused by species of the tapeworm Echinococcus, and why these diseases are given very little attention on the national and international agendas in spite of the availability of tools to detect, treat, control and prevent them when it is quite clear in most instances that they are clearly associated with and help perpetuate poverty. A major reason for this is that in many endemic areas the presence and impact of these diseases are not known due to the lack of investigation and information thus policy makers are not aware of their burden and benefits of their control. Documentation is also needed to help increase awareness of the international community and hopefully result in financial and technical support being made available. Thus, burden assessments of cysticercosis and echinococcosis provide an essential evidence base for securing political will and financial and technical support as well as providing a basis for cost-benefit analysis of prevention and control efforts. In order to make an appropriate and full burden assessment one must consider the health, agricultural, social and other impacts of these parasitic zoonoses comprehensively. During the symposium presentations were given concerning curron going initiatives to assess the burden of cysticercosis and echinococcosis and examples of the impact of these diseases in both developing and developed countries were provided. In addition, cost factors related to vaccines for these cestode diseases were discussed and the possibilities for technical and financial support from multilateral agencies for assessments and interventions presented.