A roadmap to a polio-free world: policy dialogue on September 2
On September 2, the Centre for Global Health at the University of Oslo and the Global Health Centre at the Graduate Institute (Geneva) are hosting a policy dialogue at Tøyen Hovedgård. The question to be addressed is as simple as it is important: how should we proceed to eradicate polio once and for all?
While the question is simple the solution is complex and fraught with difficulties. Targeted vaccine initiatives have brought us far towards a polio-free world, but setbacks have occurred. We have seen it in Syria, where polio was near eradication but in 2014 developed into a major health emergency due to conflict and war. In fact, polio was declared a health emergency on the day I presented the Lancet-University of Oslo Commission report in Geneva. Quite a coincidence, given the fact that our report concludes that attention to targeted initiatives to improve health must be balanced by due attention to global governance. The failure to sustain adequate health service in times of conflict and unrest is a prime example of governance dysfunction. We need to develop a cross-sectoral approach whereby diplomatic, security, development, and humanitarian assessments and responses are integrated so as to sustain the multiple initiatives that target specific infections and diseases.
Back to the question raised: how should we proceed to eradicate polio? What are the tasks of the universities and research communities? The list is long:
Research must establish efficient surveillance by:
-Identifying virus serotypes
-Monitoring infection incidence and spread within and across borders
-Modeling predictions of potential outbreaks
-Identifying key dysfunctions in areas with persistent polio transmission and/or importation
-Understanding migratory populations
Research must establish immunity by:
-Developing and assessing vaccine safety and efficacy on different virus types
-Measuring and improving population immunity levels in key reservoir areas
Research must help optimise outbreak response by:
-Identifying new cases and spread of polio
-Better tracking of evolving epidemiology and transmission
Research must underpin roadmap to a polio-free world by:
-Planning appropriate strategies for the post-eradication era
This list amply demonstrates the need to work across disciplinary boundaries and to couple technological initiatives to efficient governance. What is true for polio is also true for other infectious diseases. This is why research in the realm of global health must include expertise from a variety of disciplines including medicine, epidemiology, sociology, anthropology, public health, political science, law, and economics.
The University of Oslo has established a Centre for Global Health (CGH), hosted by the Institute of Health and Society at the Medical Faculty. The overall goal of the CGH is to offer a network and hub for scientists and educators with an engagement in global health.
Polio eradication is a topic of interest for the CGH and a primary goal for a range of international institutions and stakeholders. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) arose from consultation of major stakeholders (WHO, UNICEF and others) to synergize research and clinical efforts in combatting the global spread of the virus. An interdisciplinary Polio Research Committee (PRC) helps guide the Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s (GPEI) research agenda. The policy dialogue on polio eradication must engage all relevant disciplines and all relevant stakeholders. This is the only recipe for success.
Program and registration for polio dialogue on September 2: