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Polio Gets Screen Time February 26, 2009

Posted by yostliketoast in Global Health.

A recent CNN article shed light on an important and often overlooked issue, polio eradication. The article describes an Oscar nominated documentary entitled, “The Final Inch” which explores

“the final stages of a 20 year initiative.”

A producer for the film states that the main goal of the documentary was to bring polio to the forefront of peoples minds stating that,

“ordinary American people have forgotten polio.”

Although I was excited to see that the issue to polio eradication was receiving new attention from the mainstream media, I thought the article did a poor job on explaining how and why polio remains a problem today.

While yes, I agree that polio is forgotten among the general population, I think it’s important to note that it is still very much a concern in the public health world. However, these concerns are often ones of the economic value and true feasibility of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative rather than of the pressing public health value of complete polio eradication.

One concern of the polio eradication initiative, is the cost to prevent such a few number of cases. As cited in the CNN article, only four countries- India, Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan- had recorded cases of polio in 2008 and there have been only 26 recorded cases of polio around the world this year. However, the 2009-2010 budget for the program is 1.34 billion dollars. This is an incredible large sum of money to go to a program which is only preventing a few dozen cases of polio each year.

Another concern of the public health crowd is how feasible complete eradication of polio really is. The article touches only on one subject, the political stability and cooperation of the remaining infected countries. However, many more issues remain. Unlike smallpox, which could be prevented for up to five years at full immunity with a single vaccination, polio requires several vaccinations to be effective. Smallpox was also eradicated in half the time it is taking polio. Most public health officials agree that the feasibility of complete polio eradication isn’t looking good when compared to past efforts.

I was glad to see that an overlooked health issue was covered in the mainstream media. And although the article did a decent job explaining polio and the current efforts to eradicate the disease, the article did no justice in explaining the controversy surrounding the program. This I thought would have made a much more fulfilling and interesting article.



1. Alanna - March 19, 2009

I agree with your concerns; an awful lot of Americans don’t even know polio still exists.

2. Global Health Progress » Blog Roundup: Infectious Diseases and Global Health Funding - February 1, 2010

[…] health student Kayla Yost, writing for the George Washington University’s Target Population, expresses her excitement that polio eradication is receiving mainstream media attention in the […]

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