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Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Print version ISSN 0042-9686


AYLWARD, R.B. et al. Disease eradication as a public health strategy: a case study of poliomyelitis eradication. Bull World Health Organ [online]. 2000, vol.78, n.3, pp.285-297. ISSN 0042-9686.

Disease eradication as a public health strategy was discussed at international meetings in 1997 and 1998. In this article, the ongoing poliomyelitis eradication initiative is examined using the criteria for evaluating candidate diseases for eradication proposed at these meetings, which covered costs and benefits, biological determinants of eradicability (technical feasibility) and societal and political considerations (operational feasibility). The benefits of poliomyelitis eradication are shown to include a substantial investment in health services delivery, the elimination of a major cause of disability, and far-reaching intangible effects, such as establishment of a ‘‘culture of prevention’’. The costs are found to be financial and finite, despite some disturbances to the delivery of other health services. The ‘‘technical’’ feasibility of poliomyelitis eradication is seen in the absence of a non-human reservoir and the presence of both an effective intervention and delivery strategy (oral poliovirus vaccine and national immunization days) and a sensitive and specific diagnostic tool (viral culture of specimens from acute flaccid paralysis cases). The certification of poliomyelitis eradication in the Americas in 1994 and interruption of endemic transmission in the Western Pacific since March 1997 confirm the operational feasibility of this goal. When the humanitarian, economic and consequent benefits of this initiative are measured against the costs, a strong argument is made for eradication as a valuable disease control strategy.

Keywords : cost-benefit analysis; immunization programmes [case studies, and organization and administration]; poliomyelitis, prevention and control; programme evaluation.

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