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Wall Street Journal Examines Changes To Polio Eradication Strategy

The Wall Street Journal examines upcoming changes to the global strategy to eradicate polio with a focus on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s role in fighting the disease. “[O]rganizations behind the polio fight,” which include the WHO, UNICEF, Rotary International and the CDC, “plan to announce a major revamp of their strategy to address shortcomings exposed by” the increasing number of polio outbreaks in “countries believed to have stopped the disease.” The plan is expected to be announced next week.

The question regarding what to do next about polio, “goes to the heart of one of the most controversial debates in global health: Is humanity better served by waging wars on individual diseases, like polio? Or is it better to pursue a broader set of health goals simultaneously – improving hygiene, expanding immunizations, providing clean drinking water – that don’t eliminate any one disease, but might improve the overall health of people in developing countries?” The newspaper reports the new polio plan will combine “both approaches. It’s an acknowledgment, bred by last summer’s outbreak, that disease-specific wars can succeed only if they also strengthen the overall health system in poor countries.”

“The shift on polio was informed by” Gates Foundation Co-Chair Bill Gates’s visit “last year to Nigeria, a nation with a history of exporting the virus to other countries.” Last year, Gates Foundation “polio grants were approaching $1 billion,” according to the newspaper. A Wall Street Journal reporter traveled with Gates to document the trip (Guth, 4/23).