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Our Global Voices Posts

World Polio Day 2016: A Focus on Tenacity and Hope

Posted on by Dr. Rebecca Martin, Director CDC’s Center for Global Health
Rebecca Martin, PhD, Director, Center for Global Health
Rebecca Martin, PhD, Director, Center for Global Health

John Bingham is an American writer and long distance runner who’s competed in more than 45 marathons. He has no connection whatsoever to global health. Nor does he claim any history or involvement with the difficult but ever hopeful struggle to eradicate polio from every corner of the world.

So it might seem odd that Bingham’s words come to mind today, World Polio Day, as an apt and perfectly relevant call to action in our efforts to defeat polio.

“Marathons,” he wrote, “are about tenacity as much as talent.”

We have made remarkable progress in our goal to eradicate polio, but if we are to close the last, small but stubborn distance between a world with polio and one without, we should heed Bingham’s advice.

Today, on World Polio Day, it’s worth remembering that we won’t reverse polio’s resurgence in Nigeria or anywhere without tenacity. As recently as 2012, Nigeria accounted for more than half of all polio cases in the world; however, thanks to quality vaccination campaigns and surveillance, the country has made significant progress.  Currently a massive immunization campaign that will reach 40 million children across Nigeria and four other African nations in the Lake Chad Basin requires nothing if not tenacity and quality performance.

We must be tenacious finding new and novel strategies for immunizing people in war torn and insecure parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan, the only countries besides Nigeria where polio is found. And ensuring that countries where polio has been erased stay that way demands a vigilance and sharp-eyed attention that are the embodiments of tenacity.

Being tenacious also requires us to recognize the progress we’ve made as well as the work left to be completed. World Polio Day is a perfect moment for that reflection and for a sober analysis for achieving what we all want – a world free of polio everywhere.

The facts and the on-the-ground realities are plain to see. All the hard work; all the science and innovations; all the collaborations and critical partnerships among the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rotary International, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Health Organization, UNICEF , countries, communities, and many more, have resulted in the fewest cases of polio in the fewest places  in history.

We need to be even more tenacious in our determination to finish the job.

Just think, an awful, debilitating and painful disease that once was second only to nuclear war as a prevailing public fear, today is a faint and fading memory in the United States and much of the developed world. In those places, in fact, the days when the lives of children and adults were upended by a crippling disease, when iron lungs and clattering leg braces were common in many communities – has disappeared. It’s true that most physicians working today in the United States and in much of the developed world will never see a case of polio.

But that’s not true everywhere. And that’s why we must remain tenacious and demand quality performance from ourselves

It’s why World Polio Day is important. For while we’re tantalizingly close to eliminating polio worldwide, we are not there. That makes today the perfect time to reflect, for recognizing our successes, reaffirming our commitment to defeating this terrible disease and taking a sober measure of the remaining hills to traverse and what’s needed to reach that ultimate goal.

The facts are well known but worth repeating. In 1988, there were 350,000 cases of polio in 125 countries. By 2015, that number had declined to 74 cases in just two remaining endemic countries, Pakistan and Afghanistan. As of today there are 27 cases in the world.

Then a setback: polio was detected in Nigeria after two years of not detecting any wild polio cases. It was the fact that armed conflict and insecurity made it unsafe and impossible to fully immunize everyone, everywhere. We need to be tenacious in identifying silent areas and understand what we do not know so we can act proactively.  Surmounting this sad reality requires a tenacious determination and effort, as well as the continued bravery by all communities and health workers.

Let’s not forget some other important facts. As recently as 2012, Nigeria accounted for more than half of all polio cases in the world. But thanks to hard and tenacious work by the Nigerian people and its government in partnership with the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, the country has strengthened its ability to detect virus and respond and to vaccinate.

The discovery touched off an aggressive response.  The virus will be stopped in Nigeria and ultimately everywhere. I have no doubt,

More broadly, since 1988 the work of the international partnership to defeat polio has spared 16 million children the terrible fate that comes with polio – paralysis. More than 800,000 deaths have been prevented.

The world is up to this monumental feat. The collective action across all sectors is remarkable. The determination is visible, and we must be tenacious to cross the finish line and the ultimate gift to future generations – eradicating polio.

Posted on by Dr. Rebecca Martin, Director CDC’s Center for Global HealthLeave a comment

Hurricane Matthew and Haiti: Putting CDC Expertise to Work

Life can quickly move from hard to catastrophic when a vulnerable island nation lies directly in the path of a Category 4 storm, as Haiti did when Hurricane Matthew roared ashore to bludgeon its remote southwest region on October 4th. People need immediate shelter when a disaster like this strikes. They need doctors, nurses, and Read More >

Posted on by Jordan Tappero, MD, MPHLeave a comment

Transforming Hypertension Treatment in Barbados

A blood pressure screening in Barbados.

While being a physician is certainly important to me, first and foremost I consider myself a native of Barbados. The people of Barbados are unique, but they share a commonality with citizens of many other countries: they struggle with a high burden of hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, and other risk factors for Read More >

Posted on by Dr. Kenneth Connell, the Preclinical Deputy Dean and a Faculty Lecturer in Clinical Pharmacology at the University of the West Indies, Medical Sciences Cave Hill Campus in BarbadosLeave a comment

The Reality of Rabies in Ethiopia: When Man’s Best Friend Becomes the Enemy

Rabies is a disease that affects both people and animals, and is nearly always fatal once clinical signs have developed. In the United States, people are most likely to get rabies from a bat or raccoon. But in Africa and many other parts of the world, people fear getting rabies from their dogs. In Ethiopia, Read More >

Posted on by Emily Pieracci, CDC veterinarianLeave a comment

Lessons Learned from Scaling up HIV Treatment in Mozambique

A new CDC study examining the first decade of HIV antiretroviral therapy (ART) scale-up in Mozambique revealed fewer people are dying from HIV in recent years, likely due to more patients starting treatment at earlier disease stages. The analysis also found that people who more recently began ART were less likely to remain engaged in Read More >

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How Better Data Means Better Decisions in Emergencies

In an emergency, health workers need access to information quickly. They need to know the facts: Where is the outbreak occurring? Who is it affecting? How is it spreading? People on the ground may each have critical pieces of the puzzle, but they may not be connecting. What’s needed is a central system where all Read More >

Posted on by Quang Tran, Technical Officer, PATH VietnamLeave a commentTags

On Global Health and Being “Prepared”

Monitoring and Evaluation in Nigeria

What does it mean to be “prepared?” And, more to the point, what does it mean for working in global health? For some, being “prepared” means setting aside cash for emergencies and keeping their insurance up-to-date. For others, it means a plan of action or even a fresh supply of duct tape, a list of Read More >

Posted on by Rebecca Martin, PhD, Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Center for Global HealthLeave a commentTags , , ,

Stopping Viruses that Don’t Respect Borders

Community Health Volunteers in India

CDC’s Global Immunization Plan In the first seven months of 2016 alone, 13 states reported outbreaks of measles, a highly infectious disease that killed 400 to 500 Americans a year and hospitalized nearly 50,000 more as recent as the 1950s. With the advent of the measles vaccine, routine immunizations, and the federal Children’s Health Insurance Read More >

Posted on by Peter Bloland, DVM, MPVMLeave a comment

Think NoHep this World Hepatitis Day

“Viral hepatitis – a group of infectious diseases known as hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E – affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide, causing acute and chronic liver disease and killing more than 1.4 million people every year, mostly from hepatitis B and hepatitis C. It is estimated that only 5% of people Read More >

Posted on by Dr. John W. Ward, Director, Division of Viral Hepatitis1 CommentTags , , ,

INSPIRE: Breaking the Cycle of Violence

INSPIRE: Seven Strategies for Ending Violence Against Children. Implementation and Enforcement of Laws, Norms and values, Safe environments, Parent and caregiver support, Income and economic strengthening, Response and support services, Education and life skills

This blog was originally posted on The Huffington Post on July 13, 2016 As a society, we have unanimity about few things, but one of these is that no child should be harmed by violence. And yet, every 5 minutes a child somewhere in the world dies a violent death, and half of all children in the Read More >

Posted on by Tom Frieden, MD, MPHLeave a commentTags ,