In our work to end polio, we’ve noticed a disturbing development: People in many parts of the world think polio no longer exists. Even some of our members, especially younger Rotarians who were born after the development of the polio vaccine, assume that because the disease doesn’t afflict anyone in their country, it’s no longer a problem.
To make everyone aware that this disease is just an airplane ride away, Rotary started World Polio Day, held annually in October. Over the years, we have marked this occasion in various ways. Clubs have held fundraisers or lit up iconic structures in their country with the words “End Polio Now.” More recently, we created live-streamed events featuring prominent public health experts and journalists, along with some of our celebrity ambassadors.
This year, we partnered with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which will host a live-streamed event at its headquarters in Atlanta. (Taking into consideration different time zones, the event will be immediately archived so your club may watch it at a time that is convenient.) Tom Frieden, the CDC’s director, and Jeffrey Kluger, Time magazine’s senior editor overseeing science and health reporting, will be joined by other public health experts to discuss the milestones, promising developments, and remaining challenges in the fight to eradicate polio.
But we want Rotarians to observe World Polio Day everywhere, not just in Atlanta. In fact, we would like to see at least 1,000 World Polio Day events take place throughout the world. I encourage you to host viewing parties of the live-streamed event and organize fundraisers. Be sure to register your event at www.endpolio.org/worldpolioday, where you can also find resources to help make it a success.
Polio is still out there, even though the number of cases has dropped by more than 99.9 percent since 1988. We’re almost there, but until the number of cases reaches zero, polio remains a threat to all of us. World Polio Day offers an opportunity to share that vital message with your club and your community.