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International News

Science Magazine Examines Efforts to Improve Disease Eradication Programs

December 24, 2010

Years after deadlines for polio and guinea worm eradication came and went without achieving their intended goals Science magazine examines efforts to strengthen disease eradication. The topic was front and center of a meeting of public health experts earlier this year in Frankfurt, Germany, that "sought a new way forward" on disease eradication, the magazine reports. "The participants, many of them involved in past and current eradications, believed that eradication campaigns should continue. But 'proceed with caution' could have been the motto" of a report the group drafted during the meeting, according to Science.

The magazine writes, while "[w]ealthy countries in particular are determined never to let their guard down against diseases like smallpox, polio, or measles[,] ... developing countries have their own questions [about disease eradication campaigns]: Why should they keep spending inordinate amounts of time and money on a disease such as polio -- now down to fewer than 2,000 cases a year -- while their health systems are struggling with far more devastating diseases such as AIDS and TB?"

The article examines the history of disease eradication efforts, comparing the success of the smallpox eradication campaign to several barriers the malaria and polio eradication campaigns have faced, and documents how "tantalizingly close" public health experts believe they are getting to wiping out guinea worm. The piece also looks at several challenges disease eradication efforts can foster in countries also grappling with other health issues.

"Future eradication campaigns [cannot] afford to bypass poor countries' broader health concerns, like diarrhea or respiratory disease, which kill far more children, the group [gathered in Frankfurt] concluded," according to Science. "Eradication programs should not hurt existing health services by siphoning away money and effort from basic health services for an increasingly rare disease, the Frankfurt report says -- and to the extent that they can, they should have a broader beneficial effect," Science continues.

The report also called for future disease eradication plans to "be more evidence-based than the old ones," as well as consider the "economic costs and benefits" to eradication campaigns. The article includes comments by Stephen Cochi of the CDC; Walter Dowdle, a consultant for the Task Force for Global Health; Donald Hopkins of the Carter Center; T. Jacob John, a member of the India Expert Advisory Group for Polio Eradication; Eric Ottesen of the Lymphatic Filariasis Support Center at the Task for Global Health; and Stewart Tyson, a consultant at Liverpool Associates in Tropical Health in the United Kingdom (Enserink, 12/24).

Back to other news for December 2010

This information was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery. © Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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