Working together to improve global health
Bruce Thorley (left), Jenny Horton, and Lieven Desomer attend the UN conference for NGOs in Melbourne, Australia. They spoke at Rotary's polio eradication workshop on 30 August. Photo by Christine Sanders
To increase awareness of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) and its successes, Rotary International organized a workshop held 30 August at the United Nations Department of Public Information/Nongovernmental Organization Conference in Melbourne, Australia.
More than 2,200 representatives from nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in 70 countries took part in the three-day conference, which aimed to build support for improving global health and achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals.
Rotary's workshop, "Coordination a Public-Private Public Health Campaign: The Global Polio Eradication Initiative," was moderated by Rotarian Jenny Horton and featured presentations by Bruce Thorley of the World Health Organization and Lieven Desomer of UNICEF.
"The hope was that attendees left understanding how partners can work together, confronting all challenges while preventing disability and death in children who suffer from polio," said Horton, a member of the Rotary Club of Kenmore, Queensland, who served as a WHO consultant. "I believe our workshop displayed how each partner brings different strengths to the GPEI and how this relationship is vital to the success of eradicating polio."
Horton said the workshop emphasized how GPEI programs have increased routine immunization, helped with the development of disease surveillance systems, and provided a structure that has benefited other disease interventions.
"Seeing and hearing just what is being done about polio eradication by many NGOs was amazing," she said. "Looking at the bigger picture to build partnerships to achieve a goal and ensure community participation is the best way to achieve the best outcome."
A registered nurse and volunteer for Stop the Transmission of Polio (STOP), Horton has led polio surveillance activities and immunization campaigns in Botswana, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan.
Horton said that having a workshop at the conference highlighted Rotary's leading role in building global support for polio eradication. A booth also showcased the humanitarian work of Rotary, particularly in water, sanitation, and peace.
"Rotary is one of the leading community-based organizations in the world," Horton said. "I'm still in awe at what an organization of volunteers, partnering with others, can do toward eradicating a disease from the world. Through partnerships, anything is possible."
Horton added that NGOs gain a lot by meeting and sharing programs, and that the conference will increase interaction among them as they work toward advancing global health.
"The conference and our workshop were very successful," she said. "We had the opportunity to learn about many programs that promote better health and to ponder how we can partner with others."