R4D and JHU Hold Event on the Legacy of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative

July 1, 2015

On Wednesday, July 1, panelists and guests convened at R4D for a discussion, titled “Polio Eradication: Status, Transition and Legacy.” It was the fourth event in “Conversations on Sustainable Financing for Development,” the joint R4D/Johns Hopkins (JHU) Bloomberg School of Public Health series, with previous talks covering immunization, family planning and HIV.The panelists, including Steve Cochi of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Steinglass of John Snow, Inc. (JSI), Svea Closser, author of “Chasing Polio in Pakistan,” Muhammad Pate, former Nigerian Minister of State for Health and Daniela Rodriguez of JHU, delivered prepared remarks and then fielded questions from the audience. R4D Managing Director Robert Hecht moderated the discussion.Mr. Cochi, chair of the Polio Eradication Initiative’s Polio Legacy Management Group, opened the session with a presentation on the current state of the global polio eradication program, noting its success driving down rates of infection in countries including Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mr. Steinglass, Director of JSI’s Immunization Center, followed with remarks about the tension between polio eradication efforts, which have been well funded throughout their 25-year history, and efforts to establish universal routine immunization for preventable diseases like polio, which have not received the same level of political and financial support. Mr. Steinglass questioned the fitness of polio eradication assets – including staff and equipment which are suited for outbreak detection and response – for transition to routine immunization, drawing on an analogy to make his point. “Would we expect firefighters, who are trained in fire detection and suppression, to come to our houses to sweep our chimneys and clean our clothes dryer vents to prevent fires?”Ms. Closser, contributing by phone from Ethiopia, focused her remarks on case studies from India, Nepal and Pakistan. Mr. Pate, now with Duke University, argued that the development of the trust of citizens in government efforts is a critical element of the legacy of polio eradication and cautioned that care must be taken not to risk that trust moving forward. Ms. Rodriguez rounded out the discussion by providing perspectives on the lessons of polio eradication for other issues in global health and international development.Next up in the series will be the Ebola response and its long-term implications, later in the summer.

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