Ensuring high-quality data on polio eradication efforts in Pakistan
In 1988, poliovirus was endemic in 125 countries. Today, that number is down to just three: Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan. The dramatic reduction is due in part to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), a private-public partnership including the Gates Foundation that works with national governments to run vaccination campaigns in high-risk areas. Sidney Brown is part of a task team that ensures the accuracy and neutrality of GPEI data in Pakistan. Alongside colleagues from the Pakistani government, WHO, and UNICEF, she provides technical and operational assistance on monthly nationwide surveys to estimate polio vaccination coverage following GPEI’s National Immunization Days. This post-campaign monitoring program collects information from 49,200 households nationwide in just three days. Brown also helped develop performance indicators for the National Emergency Action Plan for Polio Eradication, information sharing strategies, and monitoring program guidelines. She credits SNRE for cultivating the universally-applicable skills of systems thinking, monitoring and evaluation, and data analysis that positioned her to succeed in this role. It was also at SNRE that Brown had candid discussions with Professor Bunyan Bryant about the role she could play in the social justice movement. Brown attests to the importance of the polio eradication initiative from a social justice perspective: the most impoverished communities are disproportionately subject to outbreaks of polio. Thanks to the GPEI’s work, the year 2016 saw the lowest ever annual number of polio cases in Pakistan, but the group’s work is not done there. Remaining gaps in coverage and surveillance, in close coordination with neighboring Afghanistan, are currently being addressed, focusing on reaching every last child with vaccines. “When you get to the very end of the eradication program, you’re dealing with the ultimate outliers, the most difficult-to-access populations,” says Brown. “It’s a very unifying goal to say that we want to eradicate polio so it doesn’t affect any child, anywhere, ever again.” [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGOMfAtE7Lk[/embed] Photo courtesy of CDC Global.