Polio Eradication Offers Lessons for Other Public Health Programs

With polio eradication on the horizon, The Task Force for Global Health and its partners have compiled lessons learned and best practices from this historical effort to help inform other public health programs.

“Polio Endgame & Legacy-Implementation, Best Practices, and Lessons Learned” is a supplement of the Journal of Infectious Diseases that was published on July 1. The series of manuscripts documents the knowledge, innovations, and lessons learned in the decades-long effort to eradicate the disease.

“Eradicating polio will be monumental,” said Task Force Project Manager Chantal Veira, MBA, who helped spearhead the development of the supplement. “But we must transfer the knowledge and innovations used in this great effort to ensure that vulnerable populations are protected against future public health threats.”

The supplement covers topics including vaccine supply, financing for immunization programs, and communication strategies to foster collaboration between organizations and governments.

Several manuscripts by The Task Force’s staff focus on lessons learned during the 2016 switch in the type of oral polio vaccine used worldwide, which was a crucial step in the eradication effort.

The Task Force was part of the work group tasked with driving the communications about the switch. The group helped generate awareness about the switch and ensure commitment at the country levels. It also supported in-country communications and training efforts critical to the switch’s success.

“The level of coordination and synchronization of activities required to switch polio vaccines required an unparalleled level of global commitment and collaboration,” said Veira.

In addition to best practices, the supplement examines the potential risk to health systems after polio is eradicated. In some developing countries such as Somalia, immunization and disease surveillance programs have relied heavily on investments made through the polio program. The loss of this support after eradication could actually cause polio and other infectious diseases to reemerge.

“Some countries have already started looking at how to sustain the public health capacity that they developed for polio eradication,” said Veira. “We hope that this supplement will encourage those working in polio to continue to document lessons, apply them, and provide a push to others to do the same.”

Poliomyelitis is expected to be eradicated by 2020. When this happens, it will become only the second human disease ever eradicated after smallpox.

Read more about The Task Force’s work to eradicate polio:

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