Our Global Voices Posts

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative History Project: Documenting the Eradication of Polio

Posted on by Oral Historian Hana Crawford, Project Manager Mary Hilpertshauser, Archivist Laura Frizzell
L to R: Oral Historian Hana Crawford, Project Manager Mary Hilpertshauser, Archivist Laura Frizzell
L to R: Oral Historian Hana Crawford, Project Manager Mary Hilpertshauser, Archivist Laura Frizzell

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) is a partnership led by five organizations: the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The goal of GPEI is to eradicate polio worldwide.

Based at the David J. Sencer CDC Museum in Atlanta, Georgia, the GPEI History Project works to ensure the documentation of the history of global polio eradication, the global partnership, and lessons learned while recognizing those involved in the efforts. This documentation is facilitated by oral historian Hana Crawford and archivist Laura Frizzell in a two-pronged effort to collect oral histories and historic artifacts from GPEI personnel. Mary Hilpertshauser, Collections Manager at the David J. Sencer CDC Museum, serves as project manager. The project, originally requested by the Polio Oversight Board (POB) is lead on the GPEI side by Agnes Warner.

Oral Histories of the GPEI: Remembering Polio Eradication (Hana Crawford)

In July 2017, I was contracted through CDC as project oral historian for the GPEI History Project. In my full-time dream job, I have the good fortune of researching and conducting one and one-half to two-hour interviews with management-level GPEI personnel and creating oral history training materials.

Oral history is a field of study and method of documenting and interpreting the ways in which the past is remembered. The tool of oral history: interviewing. In interviews, narrators describe their experiences in polio eradication—what they did, what it meant to them then and now—and from that we get a record of the impacts of polio eradication efforts at the field, programmatic, and global levels. Oral history takes biographical accounts and connects them with larger historical contexts. Sometimes biography is a reflection of larger context; sometimes biography shapes the larger context.

In the twenty-four oral histories that make up the GPEI collection so far, narrators describe building a global program at micro and macro levels. Moving chronologically, the collection documents the beginnings of the global polio eradication program, turning points in the program, and lessons learned along the way. Narrators discuss the development immunization programs, debates about horizontal and vertical global health programs, competing health priorities, social mobilization, the vaccines, the evolution of wild poliovirus and circulating vaccine-derived polioviruses, collaboration between public and private partners, development of global health infrastructure and systems, building the Global Polio Laboratory Network, high-level advocacy, communications strategies—the list goes on!

Phase 1 (the current phase) draws exclusively at this point on narratives from management-level participants, though the project must draw from the experiences of people who have implemented the program in other roles. Ethically, oral history as a field is obligated to amplify underrepresented voices and to ensure their inclusion in the historic record. Moving forward, we plan to create an emphasis on community health workers and people who have had other in-country roles.

On March 26, 2018, the Global Immunization Division at the Center for Global Health, CDC Atlanta, hosted a pilot oral history training for CDC personnel traveling to places in the field that are not accessible to our team. Should they have a chance, the field interviewers will add voices that would not otherwise be represented to the GPEI History Project Oral History Collection.

It is truly an honor to be working on this project!

Preservation Past and Present: Enhancing the Archival Component of Polio Eradication (Laura Frizzell)

A vaccine vial from Myanmar that was donated to the GPEI History Project on behalf of the late Bob Keegan. Photographed by Lauren Bishop, CDC Studio.
A vaccine vial from Myanmar that was donated to the GPEI History Project on behalf of the late Bob Keegan. Photographed by Lauren Bishop, CDC Studio.

Having now been involved in this project for eight months, I consistently thank my lucky stars for this opportunity to ensure the preservation of GPEI records, which carry such a significant, global impact. As the archivist for the GPEI History Project, my objectives are trifold: identify existing archival collections held by the GPEI partners; ensure the preservation of GPEI records; and collect and preserve polio-related materials – especially 3D artifacts – from individuals who have been or are currently involved in polio eradication, both domestically and internationally.

Working to meet these objectives has afforded me the opportunities to travel and collaborate with amazing people from each of the five partners. So far, I’ve been able to visit the archives of WHO, UNICEF, and Rotary, and to discuss with their archivists the best ways to strengthen their polio-specific collections, each of which details the partners’ efforts in  polio eradication. I have also been able to meet with GPEI personnel at many levels of involvement to collect artifacts and materials pertaining to their work with GPEI. It has been truly inspiring to hear their stories and to use their donated materials to bring a multifaceted, visual component to the polio eradication legacy.

By the project’s conclusion, I plan to provide three primary deliverables: a comprehensive list across the GPEI partnership of archival collections pertaining to polio eradication; a collection of organized materials from the GPEI management structure complete with a retention schedule for future materials and a plan for ongoing preservation; and a collection of 3D artifacts representing the history around polio eradication.

Posted on by Oral Historian Hana Crawford, Project Manager Mary Hilpertshauser, Archivist Laura FrizzellTags , , , ,

Tetanus: Eliminating the Forgotten, Deadly Disease

FETP Resident Pheobe Hilda Alitubeera searching for tetanus cases in health facility registers.

As a clinician, seeing a patient with a preventable disease like tetanus is heartbreaking. The most common signs are painful spasms of the muscles of the jaw (lockjaw) and spine. But, in the worst cases, tetanus impairs breathing, and without medical intervention, nearly 100% of patients die. Tetanus rarely occurs in the U.S. because we’ve Read More >

Posted on by Dr. Rebecca Casey, EIS Officer, Global Immunization DivisionTags , , , ,

Preventing Cervical Cancer in Cambodia: Evaluating the HPV Vaccination Demonstration Project

A nine-year old girl and her grandmother being interviewed in Svay Rieng province about her knowledge on HPV vaccine

Cervical cancer claims the lives of a quarter of a million women every year with almost nine out of ten deaths occurring in developing countries.   Cervical cancer is caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), a virus that can cause cancers in the mouth, throat, and reproductive tract, as well as genital warts. Safe and effective vaccines Read More >

Posted on by Julie Garon, MPH - Vaccine Introduction Team, GIDTags , , ,

Proud to Protect Burkinabè from Meningitis

A child lines up to get her routine MACV vaccination in Burkina Faso in 2017. © Evelyn Hockstein/CDC Foundation

Isaïe Medah, MD, MSc, is a physician and director general of public health in Burkina Faso. Previously he was director of the country’s routine immunization program from 2015–2017 and director of disease control from 2011–2015. Proud to Protect Burkinabè from Meningitis By Isaïe Medah, MD, MSc In a remote village of Burkina Faso, a woman Read More >

Posted on by By Isaïe Medah, MD, MScTags , , , , ,

Message from Hank Tomlinson, PhD, Acting Director of CDC’s Division of Global HIV & TB.

CDC's innovative efforts to find, cure, and prevent TB are creating a safer America and a safer world.

“We are at a key moment in the global fight against tuberculosis. Tremendous progress has been made and, yet, this preventable, curable infection still claims more lives than any other infectious disease or epidemic. As leaders come together on World TB Day and again at the United Nations High Level Meeting on TB in September, Read More >

Posted on by Dr. Hank Tomlinson

Global Health Security Agenda Programs Protect Americans from Infectious Disease Threats

Today’s world of increasing interconnectivity and mobility accelerates the shared global risk to human health and well-being. The United States cannot effectively protect the health of its citizens without addressing infectious disease threats around the world. A pathogen that begins in a remote town can reach major cities on all six continents in 36 hours[1]. Read More >

Posted on by Anne Schuchat, MD (RADM, USPHS)

World Birth Defects Day 2018 Raises Global Awareness of Birth Defects

Every year, millions of babies around the world are born with a serious birth defect. In many countries, birth defects are one of the leading causes of death in babies and young children. Babies who survive and live with these conditions are at an increased risk for long-term disabilities and other health problems. The fourth Read More >

Posted on by Margaret A. Honein, Ph.D, M.P.H., Acting Director, Division of Congenital and Developmental Disorders, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental DisabilitiesLeave a commentTags ,

Continuing the Fight Against Zika

Zika virus continues to spread in many countries and territories around the globe. Because there is no vaccine or medicine for Zika, the virus and its associated health outcomes will remain a significant and enduring public health challenge. The Danger from Zika Although many people infected with Zika experience mild or no symptoms, infection during Read More >

Posted on by Olga L. Henao, MPH, PhD, Epidemiologist2 CommentsTags , , , ,

IMPACT Program in Kenya: A Fellow’s Experience

Oren (right) with some of his colleagues Dr. Vincent Yator (center) and Athanasio Omondi (left) engage with a International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease facilitator, Dr. Gihan El-Nehas (standing) during a group session.

Many doctors and other health workers in my country have limited background or training in leadership and management, yet they often find themselves in leadership positions. This was my case when I was appointed Sub-County Medical Officer in February 2014. Starting out was no easy task, considering I was more used to clinical work. Here, Read More >

Posted on by Dr. Oren Nyambane Ombiro4 CommentsTags , , ,

Creating Strength in Numbers to End Violence Against Women & Girls

Dr. Daniela Ligiero

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign falls every year between the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25th, and Human Rights Day on December 10th. It is a time to raise awareness and galvanize global support and action to end violence against women and girls around the Read More >

Posted on by Dr. Daniela Ligiero, Executive Director and CEO, Together for GirlsLeave a commentTags ,