India Celebrates It’s 2nd Polio-Free Year! The Role of Information Tools and Vaccines

  In the world of global health, major victories to intractable problems in challenging conditions don’t happen every day. But one did just happen: on January 13, 2014, India marked its second year with no reported cases of polio, suggesting that India is on track towards sustainably eradicating the disease within its borders. This leaves just three nations,  Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan, where polio is still stubbornly endemic.

Information tools have been vital in the progress towards eradication.

     The development of the polio vaccine by Dr. Jonas Salk in 1952 was a major breakthrough in addressing the dangerous and potentially deadly disease. The subsequent commitment to establishing (local, state, national and global) disease surveillance and monitoring systems, reporting statistics and using data strategize vaccination coverage campaigns constituted the lion’s share of work towards eradication in the U.S. These information systems have been difficult to develop and efficiently utilize in resource-poor settings, which has challenged eradication efforts.

     The need for evidence-based epidemiological information for has led to the development of expansive, epidemiological databases like GIDEON, which covers 340+ infectious disease in 231 countries with information on 500+ drugs and vaccines (available to UM affiliates). One of the major global public health players researching, funding interventions and strategizing for the worldwide fight against polio is the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. They acknowledge “Surveillance and Monitoring” and “Data-Driven Decision Making” as key components of addressing the challenge of polio, highlighting the importance of reliable data and information sources.

     In addition to information resources geared towards medical, public health and public policy professionals, platforms like HealthMap (geared towards public accessibility and usage) collect and visually map data from reliable sources about health threats in real (reported) time. Epidemic and disease outbreak information tools

Celebrating Vaccine Success?

Although the evidence for protective health benefit of preventative polio vaccination is clear, the celebration of the successes of polio (and other) vaccines globally generates a cognitive dissonance in the face of the villainization of immunizations domestically. News reports of the resurgence of whooping cough and measles are alarming, and this map from the Council on Foreign Relations depicting “Vaccine-Preventable Outbreaks”covering the U.S. is disturbing. As a representative from the India Expert Advisory Group sagely reminded the world in 2012,  “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”

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     In the world of global health, major victories to intractable problems in challenging conditions don’t happen every day. But one did just happen: on January 13, 2014, India marked its second year with no reported cases of polio, suggesting that India is on track towards sustainably eradicating the disease within its borders. This leaves just three nations,  Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan, where polio is still stubbornly endemic.

Information tools have been vital in the progress towards eradication.

     The development of the polio vaccine by Dr. Jonas Salk in 1952 was a major breakthrough in addressing the dangerous and potentially deadly disease. The subsequent commitment to establishing (local, state, national and global) disease surveillance and monitoring systems, reporting statistics and using data strategize vaccination coverage campaigns constituted the lion’s share of work towards eradication in the U.S. These information systems have been difficult to develop…

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