ADITI RAO: Mina is a frontline health worker in Kabul, Afghanistan. She spreads awareness for polio vaccination campaigns in addition to supporting other maternal and child health programs.
ANNA KALBARCZYK: She conducts polio-related trainings with community women, local Islamic leaders, and village elders. She says, the polio program began with international commitment. Doctors and politicians together understood, like smallpox, they can also eradicate polio.
OLAKUNIE ALONGE: And today, in every corner of Afghanistan, we are giving this two drops of vaccine to children by going from home to home.
SVEA CLOSSER: Mina’s role within the program has evolved over the years. She began working only at the clinic, educating parents and children that came there about polio.
ADITI RAO: Despite the best efforts of those in the program, Mina says, the distrust of the program grew among the people they served. She says, many people think vaccines are not a good thing because of religious beliefs. Others believe vaccines are made from unknown or illegal substances.
ANNA KALBARCZYK: Mina believes when people have knowledge, they don’t oppose or reject the program. But when they don’t have sufficient knowledge, it is a great challenge.
OLAKUNIE ALONGE: In some regions, polio workers have even been attacked and killed due to misconception and a lack of trust. [INAUDIBLE] it is our job, we must treat. Our government, our lab workers, people delivering vaccines, our supervisors, we all face challenges. We have many problems, but we know polio is a [INAUDIBLE].. It is our responsibility.
SVEA CLOSSER: So we increase campaigns, make partnerships with the opposition and with village elders and leaders, carry vaccines to areas where there are no refrigerators, and spread awareness. Everyone deserves a better life free from polio.
ADITI RAO: Poliomyelitis has existed as long as human society. And by the mid-1900s, it became the most feared disease in wealthy countries. Healthy children were succumbing to paralysis and sometimes death in epidemic waves, arousing visceral dread amongst parents.
ANNA KALBARCZYK: The development of polio vaccines in the 1950s dramatically changed this. But few could imagine a world without polio. It would take more than two decades since vaccines against polio became available before a coalition of influential institutions and scientists would succeed in getting polio eradication onto the global agenda.
ADITI RAO: 30 years later, the largest and most extraordinary globally coordinated health program in history, carried out in over 200 countries by millions of individuals who have committed their time, expertise, and passion, has brought us to the very brink of eradication, where failure is no longer an option.
OLAKUNIE ALONGE: The road to eradication has been longer and harder than anyone expected. As the Global Polio Eradication Initiative enters its final stretch, tackling the last 1% of polio cases remaining, what are key lessons we can draw from the program’s vast pool of knowledge and experience?
SVEA CLOSSER: In this course, we’ll dig deep into questions including, why is it important for diverse actors to cooperate in addressing global health challenges? What are unintended costs and consequences of global disease control programs? Why did some communities resist this global initiative that aims to help their children?
ANNA KALBARCZYK: To explore these questions and many others, we will follow the trajectory of the program from its inception at a global forum through to its organization at the national level down to behavior change and engagement strategies at the community level.
ADITI RAO: At each m we will explore the politics and interpersonal relations required to build and implement a global health program, as well as the challenges it entails through two themes, the importance of context and the relationship between vertical programs and health systems.
SVEA CLOSSER: In this course, we hope to bring experiences from the polio eradication effort across geographic and institutional contexts to help shape responses to other global health challenges.