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Community-Led Engagement, Greater Access Needed To End Polio

“While the challenges we face in the last polio reservoirs are difficult, they are not intractable,” Bekele Geleta, secretary general of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, writes in an AlertNet opinion piece. “To end polio forever, we must answer a critical question: what is the missing ingredient for reaching the most remote and isolated populations? What will it take to finish the last mile?” he asks, stating, “I believe the answer is two-fold: community led engagement and greater access.”

“In high-risk communities, many children do not receive polio vaccines because of misconceptions and distrust of the disease’s cause and the vaccine’s safety,” he notes, writing, “Volunteers, such as those of the national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, can help promote vaccination and other maternal, newborn and child health interventions.” He continues, “[W]e need to bring a combination of services to people’s door steps to bridge the health divide for people with little or no access to health care and information and we need to integrate polio vaccination in those approaches.” Geleta concludes, “Breaking down barriers to allow greater access for the most isolated and marginalized populations is essential to conquering the beast that I truly believe we will one day look back on as polio” (2/27).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.