U n i v e r s a l h e a l t h c o v e r a g e a n d c ommu n i c a b l e d i s e a s e s Rotary’s initiatives in conflict-affected Sri Lanka and El Salvador have employed ‘days of tranquillity’, allowing health workers to access isolated populations and helping mediators initiate dialogue between warring parties. No less than any other aspect of sustainable development, UHC depends on peacebuilding for a world without violent conflict in order to be fully realised. Conclusion: A leadership opportunity for the Commonwealth The grass-roots engagement of the polio campaign, involving millions of health workers and volunteers over a sustained, 30-year effort, combined with its high-level political focus, is already creating a lasting legacy for UHC. The latest statistics are cause for optimism, with half the number of polio cases reported by the end of March 2015 compared to the same period last year. Nevertheless, declines in immunisation and monitoring coverage in many countries previously declared poliofree create pockets of vulnerability and risk for reinfection by the wild polio virus. The Commonwealth is well positioned to play a leading role in the final push towards a polio-free world. The forthcoming creation of Commonwealth Health Exchange, an online portal for Commonwealth member states and their health care professionals to collaborate, share best practice and develop joint projects, as well as to access expert-reviewed collections of useful online information, points the way forward for the legacy of innovative multilateral initiatives like the GPEI (Commonwealth Secretariat, 2015). GPEI 68 Commonwealth Health Partnerships 2015 Momentum is building in support of a declaration on continued European Union support for polio eradication, and the EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development has expressed his determination to eliminate the disease. As the declaration iterates, childhood immunisation is one of the most cost-effective public health interventions available: ‘Global polio eradication efforts have already generated net benefits of $27 billion and could save up to $50 billion by 2035 in direct and indirect health care costs, notwithstanding immeasurable savings in human suffering.’ Most of those gains will occur in resource-poor developing countries and these can be reallocated to other vital development goals. These benefits are confirmed by a recent Lancet Commission investigation into the effects of UHC, chaired by Larry Summers.3 If the Commonwealth fulfils its potential to lead the final push against polio, a great public health achievement is on the horizon. After smallpox, polio would be only the second human disease ever to be eradicated, and in its wake powerful infrastructures of disease prevention and surveillance; multilateral networks equipped to respond to crises across borders; and experienced health care professionals would remain, ready to address other public health challenges and forge ahead with robust and sustainable development. Endnotes 1 See www.who.int/universal_health_coverage/en/ Accessed 13 April 2015. 2 A five-in-one shot against influenza, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and hepatitis B. 3 See www.thelancet.com/commissions/global-health-2035 Accessed 13 April 2015. References Commonwealth Secretariat, 2015. Secretary-General announces new online health initiative ‘CommonHealth’ webpage The Commonwealth. Available at: http://thecommonwealth.org/ media/news/secretary-general-announces-new-online-healthinitiative commonhealth Accessed 13 April 2015. Courage, K. H., 2014. How did Nigeria Quash its Ebola Outbreak so Quickly? webpage Scientific American. Available at: www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-did-nigeria-quash-itsebola outbreak-so-quickly/ Accessed 13 April 2015. Sidibé, M., 2014. ‘Post-2015: Health is the engine for development’. In: A. Robertson, ed, 2014. Commonwealth Health Partnerships 2014. Cambridge: Nexus Strategic Partnerships. JUDITH DIMENT runs an independent, award-winning public relations, public affairs and marketing consultancy, and has held senior positions in marketing and communications for more than 30 years. Diment is involved in many voluntary activities, locally, nationally and internationally. She is Rotary International’s representative to the Commonwealth and chair of the Rotary International Polio Eradication Advocacy Task Force. GPEI is a multilateral effort by Rotary International, the World Health Organization, Unicef and the US Centers for Disease Control. More recently, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – a private institution like Rotary – has joined the cause. Other key public and private players are, respectively, most of the world’s national governments and the pharmaceutical industry. The initiative has achieved notable successes: polio paralysed about 350,000 children a year – nearly 1,000 children every day – when the campaign began, but polio is now on the brink of eradication, with fewer than 370 cases reported worldwide for all of 2014. Only three countries (Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria) remain polio-endemic. The GPEI recognises the vital importance of engaging the support of women, particularly those who are from the communities being served. Pakistan has trained a team of more than 100,000 female community workers to deliver basic health services, including immunisation. Female health workers are a fulcrum of polio vaccination campaigns, demonstrating heroic commitment in the face of insecurity and resistance. In other countries too (India and Nigeria included), women make up the vast majority of this workforce.
Commonwealth Health Partnerships 2015
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