29 mar. 2017

Research Shows That 40% of Cancers Are Entirely Preventable



Scientists have published new research that suggests up to 60% of cancers could be caused by random DNA mutations, rendering those cancers completely unavoidable. The other 40%, however, could be prevented via diet, exercise, and other environmental factors.

PREVENTING THE MEDICAL MALADY

Cancer, the emperor of all maladies, is tragic under most any circumstances, but it’s even worse when the condition could have been prevented. Scientists estimate that 40 percent of all cancers are preventable, and those figures include several types you may think of right away, such as lung cancer (the most deadly) and skin cancer (the most preventable). Thanks to improved diagnostics and surveillance technologies, early cancer detection is one benefit of living in the 21st century. But how do we go about preventing the 40 percent of cancers that are preventable?
So You Want to Live Forever? [INFOGRAPHIC]
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The World Health Organization (WHO) cautions against the use of tobacco, which is known to be the single greatest risk factor for developing cancer. Tobacco-caused cancer kills about six million people each year, and tobacco smoking, second-hand smoke, and smokeless tobacco (chewing tobacco) all contribute considerably to the development of cancer.
Another factor in the development of cancer is physical fitness. Research has shown a link between being overweight or obese and cancers of the kidney, breast, esophagus, and colon. The maintenance of a normal body weight through a healthy diet consisting of ample fruit and vegetables and a regular exercise regimen are a solid start to reducing the risk of cancer as a whole.
According to the WHO, a third risk factor is alcohol, which is estimated to be responsible for more than 300,00 cancer deaths yearly. The substance can cause cancer of the mouth, liver, breast, or colon. However, the risk of cancer is dependent on how much alcohol is consumed, so moderate amounts shouldn’t be the source of too much worry.
So that’s 40 percent of cancers, but what about the other 60 percent?

PROBABILITY GENETICS

In the award-winning television series “Breaking Bad,” the general conflict arises when a high school chemistry teacher is unexpectedly diagnosed with lung cancer. With no history as a smoker, his bad luck pushes his already struggling family into further debt to pay his medical bills, which leads to an interesting plot. Unfortunately, the brooding anti-hero’s surprising cancer diagnosis might be more common than we thought.
Scientists Bert Vogelstein and Cristian Tomasetti at Johns Hopkins’ Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center have published research that suggests that certain cancers may be simply unavoidable, attributing their cause to DNA mutations.

Mutations occur each time our cells divide. Usually, these mutations take place in segments of DNA that aren’t very important. However, if a mutation occurs in a cancer driver gene, we might suffer from some bad luck. In their paper, Vogelstein and Tomasetti report that 66 percent of mutations are random, 29 percent are caused by environmental factors, and 5 percent are due to hereditary factors.
The JHU team asserts that these mutations aren’t the be-all-end-all of cancer — they’re just one factor in the process of its development. To that end, other scientists suggest that we must study the interplay of other factors, such as hormones, with genetic mutations to get a better understanding of the whole picture.
While learning that the majority of cancers appear to be unavoidable isn’t the most heartwarming news, it does leave us with the knowledge that the other 40 percent are preventable, giving us some control over our health with respect to this awful disease.



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25 mar. 2017

Adaptive Clothing Shakes Up the World




Bezgraniz Couture has adapted the world of fashion to the reality that models with disabilities can be just as sophisticated as any other supermodels.
Bezgraniz Couture has adapted the world of fashion to the reality that models with disabilities can be just as sophisticated as any other supermodels.
Cue the lights, hit the music, and get ready to strut your stuff. It is one of the last shows of LA Fashion Week and the models are lined up ready do their little turn on the catwalk. The entourage is not your typical set of super models. These models all have disabilities, and they are wearing the latest styles from Bezgraniz Couture, a Russian company whose new collections of functional modern clothes and accessories include more elbow room, extra zippers and alternative tailoring to address the needs of people with disabilities.
Fashion is a $1.2 trillion global industry, with more than $250 billion spent annually on fashion in the United States, but to date very little of that money has focused on the needs of people with disabilities. While several small companies have attempted to address those needs, few have been successful, and mainstream designs aimed at consumers with disabilities are few and far between.
But if the scene on the Los Angeles runway, along with some other positive developments are any sign, the major players in the fashion industry may finally be stepping up to give the world’s most underserved populations some new and exciting fashion options.

Adaptive Fashion to the Forefront


Photo by Oleg Nikishin/Bezgraniz Couture
Fashion-leader Tommy Hilfiger took a step toward giving people those choices last year when it launched a new adaptive children’s collection in collaboration with the adaptive fashion-focused organization, Runway of Dreams. In doing so, Hilfiger became the first American designer fashion brand to launch an adaptive children’s line, but the founder of Runway of Dreams, Mindy Scheier, does not want to stop there. The Runway of Dreams collection has the same designs as its traditional pieces but includes modified closures, adjustability, and alternate options to get in and out of the garments.
Those are the three major requirements that Scheier fights for in adaptive fashion. She founded Runway when she was unable to find a fashionable pair of jeans for her son, who uses leg braces as a result of muscular dystrophy. A former fashion designer, she spent the night switching out a button and zipper fly for magnets and adding wide openings on the bottom of pant legs, then sealed them with magnetic closures. This not only made the jeans easy to pull on and fit over her son’s leg braces, it also caused Scheier to question why modifications like this weren’t readily available for consumers with disabilities.
Armed with a new mission, Scheier set out to bring adaptive fashion into the big leagues. When she pitched her idea and presented her off-the-rack adaptations to Tommy Hilfiger, the fashion giant was almost immediately onboard. Hilfiger’s enthusiasm was more than a token gesture and has proven to be profitable. “The impact has been fantastic,” says Gary Sheinbaum, CEO of Tommy Hilfiger Americas, on the Hilfiger website. “We’ve had customers purchase from almost all 50 states and in the first quarter two of our top six selling styles on tommy.com were from this collection. In fact, 20 percent of our kids’ business was driven by this special capsule.”
Bezgraniz - Moscow Fashion Week Photos: Oleg Nikishin Stylists: Anna Chernykh and Vladimir Tilinin Women’s footwear: Ekonika Wheelchairs: Ottobock
Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia: Photography: Oleg Nikishin. Stylists: British Higher School Moscow. Women’s footwear: Ekonika. Wheelchairs: Ottobock

Tommy Hilfiger’s collaboration with Runway of Dreams may have brought adaptive fashion into the forefront, but their design relied heavily on an already established successful adaptive line of dress shirts for adults, called MagnaReady. Maura Horton, of Raleigh, North Carolina, designed what would become the MagnaReady shirt as a response to her husband’s battle with Parkinson’s. “In my husband’s case, he was always taken aback by the amount of energy and time it took him to get ready because the Parkinson’s disease had affected his dexterity and range of motion. I remember vividly when he said to me that he had to start off each day with an obstacle and that can set the tone for the whole day.”
Horton’s solution incorporates custom-designed, machine-washable magnets behind the non-functional button flap of traditional button-up shirts. The adaptations made the shirt easy to put on and take off independently, but the style was indiscernible from other traditional designs. “The system not only helped him feel independent and accomplished, but it also helped him save time and energy for other battles he might fight in the day,” says Horton.
Horton sold about 20,000 shirts through her online store from 2013-2015. Last year she partnered with PVH, a global apparel company that owns Tommy Hilfiger, IZOD and Calvin Klein. Together they developed a collection of Van Heusen men’s dress shirts using the MagnaClick adaptive technology. Last fall the shirts were rolled out to select retailers, including Belk, JCPenney and Kohl’s, both in stores and online, as well as on Amazon.com.
Although this is not the first time major retailers have carried adaptive clothing, it is certainly the biggest collaboration to date. And, if the current trend takes hold, it won’t be the last. Movements to create accessible, inclusive designs are happening worldwide.

From Russia, With Vision

Tobias Reisner and Yanina Urusova, the founders of Bezgraniz Couture believe the fashion market for people with disabilities is just beginning to emerge. They know that niche markets can be profitable, but argue the key to making them profitable is changing the perception of them. “Society creates disability via inaccessibility and stereotypical attitudes,” says Urusova. “Fashion and clothes are one of the most effective solutions to change the mind, and how they are presented is the key to create that change.”

Bezgraniz Couture – LA Fashion Week Photos: Manny Llanura. Stylists: British Higher School Moscow
Since 2008, Bezgraniz Couture — the name means “without borders” in Russian — has used art, innovative workshops, educational forums and fashion shows to broaden societies’ perception of beauty and break through the barriers that negatively impact people with disabilities. Bezgraniz Couture started by holding contests to get designers designing clothes for people with disabilities, and to figure out how such clothing could be scaled on an industrial level.
In March 2014, on the heels of the Paralympics in Sochi, Bezgraniz Couture developed the first fashion collection dedicated to adaptive clothing ever to show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia. They have continued to develop and show fashion for people with disabilities since, most recently in Los Angeles.
Nonetheless, Reisner and Urusova believe that unless the current ideations of disability and beauty evolve, the clothing market will continue to ignore the needs of people with disabilities. With that in mind, they have also embraced out of the box approaches to get people thinking, like their 2014 project Acropolis, where they restaged classic Greek sculpture using models with disabilities. “It allows society to engage in open intellectual conversation about the body and disability in the modern world and challenge its own views and how we define the ‘norm,’” says Urusova.
She stresses the importance of individual differences. “We need to learn to accept other bodies as art pieces for their unique structure and personal beauty. Lack of communication creates a roadblock to an effective marketing campaign. We need to open the market and create a viable business model by measuring bodies and creating designs that meet the needs of both fashion and individual physique.”

Bezgraniz Couture – LA Fashion Week
Photos: Manny Llanura. Stylists: British Higher School Moscow

To move in that direction, Bezgraniz Couture is working with design schools in London, Russia and the United States to make adaptive design part of the core curriculum. Elsewhere, Massachusetts Institute of Technology launched Open Style Lab in 2014 to teach adaptive fashion [see Inclusive Fashion 101], and Lucy Jones, a 24-year-old fashion designer from Cardiff, United Kingdom, made Forbes’ list of 30 Under 30 for 2016 for her innovative “seated designs” for people in wheelchairs. And Christiano Krosh, a designer in Brazil, has a new line that caters to the needs of disabled consumers. Krosh uses Velcro, zippers, hidden openings and even Braille labels to create designs that are fashionable and functional.
New fabrics, innovative technology and increased global awareness have created an opportunity to move adaptive fashion onto the runways and into established retail stores. All it takes is education, awareness, and someone to lead the charge. Urusova believes working together will make the difference. “There are wonderful pockets of practices worldwide, but no one is connecting them and bringing them together to create one movement. When that happens, there will truly be an inclusive new ‘norm’ in fashion.

The Slow Road to Inclusion

“Fashion helps you feel good, which helps you project a positive attitude in the world. Dogs have clothes, but I can’t find a decent pair of pants in a store that fit my body and needs.” — LoLo V, 30-year-old wheelchair user due to ALS and star of “Sitting Pretty” on YouTube.
“Fashion helps you feel good, which helps you project a positive attitude in the world. Dogs have clothes, but I can’t find a decent pair of pants in a store that fit my body and needs.” — LoLo V, 30-year-old wheelchair user due to ALS and star of “Sitting Pretty” on YouTube. Photo courtesy of Cur8Able.
There have been several small companies that have attempted to address the fashion needs of people with disabilities, but their success has been sporadic at best. In a sign of the difficulties facing adaptive designers, designer Izzy Camilleri decided to shutter her pioneering adaptive line IZ Collection last fall. Camilleri, who gained fame dressing celebrities like Angelina Jolie and David Bowie, launched IZ seven years ago after a local TV personality who used a wheelchair requested a custom garment.
She grew the line to feature a wide range of functional, fashionable options for men and women. She regretted having to close but said the sales weren’t high enough. “It’s not a decision that came quickly or overnight,” Camilleri told the Toronto Star. “The growth has been quite slow, and it’s difficult to sustain a slow growth. We produce locally and ethically, and it’s hard for us to juggle pricing.”
Designer Stephanie Alves started crafting adaptive fashion solutions in 2011 and went all in with the 2013 launch of ABL Denim, a line of adaptive jeans. Alves and ABL Denim took a huge step forward for the industry when she partnered with Walmart to sell her adaptive jeans on the web. The jeans are still available on the ABL Denim website but most sizes on the Walmart site are out of stock, suggesting that the jump to the mainstream may need more heavy hitters to pick up the cause.
Wendy Crawford, a C5-6 quad, founder of mobileWOMEN.org and co-founder of The Raw Beauty Project, thinks getting designers to consider people with disabilities as a viable market is difficult for a few reasons. “There is a lack of education regarding the clothing needs of people with disabilities. How is a designer to know if they haven’t encountered a disabled person in their own personal lives?”
That’s probably why so many adaptive fashion solutions start in the minds of people with disabilities.
Heidi McKenzie got her start designing adaptive fashion after a 2007 car accident left her a T4 paraplegic. Instead of settling for clothes that didn’t fit the bill, McKenzie designed her own line of jeans, Alter Ur Ego, that is both functional and fashionable. “Finding the right pants is so hard for someone in a wheelchair,” she says. “Bending over and sharing your bum with the world is just one issue. There’s length, if it cuts into your hips, risk of pressure sores if pants have back pockets with rivets, and on top of all that, finding the right fit.

Look Good, Feel Good

The right fit is not only important when it comes to looking good; it also helps people feel good. Studies show that feeling comfortable in certain clothing or fashion pieces can significantly boost confidence and self-esteem. McKenzie believes wearing clothes that are both functional and fashionable can break down social barriers. “If you come into a room well-dressed, people will react to you differently. You are more approachable,” says McKenzie. “Something as simple as someone complimenting an article of clothing you are wearing can spark a conversation, and it didn’t start with ‘Why are you in a wheelchair?’ Being asked that question over and over gets to be aggravating.”
Instead of settling for clothes that didn’t fit well, Heidi McKenzie designed her own
Instead of settling for clothes that didn’t fit well, Heidi McKenzie designed her own. Photo courtesy of Alter Ur Ego.
Like McKenzie, Dr. Sheri Prentis, founder of Be Sassy & LIVE, also found her way into fashion through disability. She knows that what works for the disability market can, at times, diminish an individual’s sense of style. Prentis has clinically disabling lymphedema (persistent swelling) of her right arm, hand and fingers due to her rigorous treatment for breast cancer. She has to wear a compression glove and sleeve daily in order to control the swelling.
Faced with a selection of unattractive and uncomfortable gloves, Prentis designed her own line of compression garments that are stylish, comfortable and more affordable. “Fashion is an integral part of everyday life and a form of expression of our personalities, our ideals and our attitudes,” she says. “Fashion has the ability to transform an individual, to lift one’s spirits, and to open opportunities.”
Stephanie Thomas was born with congenital disabilities on her right hand and feet. She designed Cur8able, a fashion and lifestyle website, to empower people with disabilities by helping them create styles that allow them to dress independently in a stylish and dignified manner while also bringing adaptive fashion into the public’s view. A fashion stylist with a graduate degree in fashion journalism, Thomas has seen various trends come and go, but only a few that address the needs of people with disabilities. She has often experienced the frustration of shopping for accessible shoes and clothing.  “Having the ability to make choices about how you want to present yourself to the world is powerful, but something most people take for granted,” she says.
But if Mindy Scheier has her way, the fashion world may be perched on the brink of truly inclusive designs. “Why has no one done this before?” she asks in a Runway of Dreams video. “We have never been more ready. Adaptive clothing will be in the mainstream. I won’t stop until it happens.”

Resources
• Bezgraniz Couture, bezgranizcouture.com
• Cur8able, www.cur8able.com
• MagnaReady, 866/635-8866; www.magnaready.com/shop
• The Raw Beauty Project, www.rawbeautynyc.com
• Runway of Dreams, www.runwayofdreams.org
• Tommy Hilfiger adaptive clothing, usa.tommy.com/shop/en/thb2cus/runway-of-dreams
• Alter UR Ego, alterurego.co• ABL Denim, http://abldenim.com/


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19 mar. 2017

Polio's last stand: frantic effort to eradicate Pakistan's 'badge of shame'


Health experts aim for zero transmission by targetting children at bus stations and border crossings with vaccinations

At a busy toll plaza in Kohat, Pakistan, a three-member vaccination team is working fast. Flanked by armed military personnel, the vaccinators approach a white van as it pulls away from the scattered stream of traffic, cars rattling east toward Islamabad and west to the nearby border with Afghanistan.
One worker leans toward the driver to ask a question as another reaches into a cooler to prepare the vaccine. Among the crush of passengers in the van, they identify one child who has not yet been vaccinated. 
He is quickly innoculated with two drops of oral polio vaccine, and his little finger is stained with purple ink to indicate that he’s received his dose. He cries as the vaccinator hurriedly passes him back through the window. The van speeds off, fading back into the dizzying hum of traffic, as the vaccinators look for the next car and child.
This scene plays out thousands of times a day at transit posts like this one — makeshift vaccination clinics set up at bus stops, border crossings, army posts, and police checkpoints across the country in an effort to reach children who are on the move. 
Here in Pakistan, home to almost all of the world’s polio cases just a few years ago, these moving targets require a vaccination strategy as agile and stubborn as the virus itself. At hundreds of sites, teams of health workers verify that every child passing through receives the vaccine.
Another child, another family, another generation is protected, and Pakistan moves one step closer to having zero polio cases.
Reaching into a car to vaccinate a small child. The innovative campaign has ensured more children than ever before get their vaccinations
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 Reaching into a car to vaccinate a small child. The innovative campaign has ensured more children than ever before get their vaccinations Photograph: Khaula Jamil

Polio - a worldwide scourge

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At the start of the 20th century, polio was a common childhood disease. In some cases the illness - caused by the poliomyelitis virus attacking the nervous system - would be no worse than a fever or a headache. But in a small but significant percentage of cases, paralysis would develop in different parts of the body. Sometimes it would affect just a toe. Sometimes a child might temporarily or permanently lose the use of their legs (hundreds of thousands suffered this fate worldwide every year), while others might be blinded by eye paralysis. In some cases, paralysis would develop in the chest and breathing muscles, leading to death through suffocation. 
In the 1950s and 60s the development of an injectable vaccine for polio brought the spread of the disease under control in industrial countries such as Britain and the United States. The fight against polio was accelerated in 1961, by the development of an oral vaccine that could be given on a lump of sugar.
But the disease was still common in developing countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America. In 1988, when the Global Polio Eradication Initiative began, more than a thousand children each day were being left paralysed by the disease. In that same year, the World Health Assembly adopted a resolution to eradicate the disease completely by the year 2000.
Polio vaccinators head out to look for unvaccinated children, Pakistan, 2016
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 Polio vaccinators head out to look for unvaccinated children, Pakistan, 2016 Photograph: Khaula Jamil
Since then, more than 2.5 billion children have been immunised against polio, in a campaign built on the commitment of 20 million volunteers working across 200 countries. Their work has been supported by an international investment of more than $14bn dollars.
Polio has now has been eradicated from most of the world, across the Americas, western pacific and Europe.
Africa had gone nearly two years without a case of the disease when Nigeria experienced an outbreak last summer which left four children paralysed. However, progress against the outbreak seems promising, with no new cases reported since August.
If the virus is wiped out, polio will become only the second human-hosted virus to be eradicated since the end of smallpox in 1980.
And that goal is now in sight. While Afghanistan and Pakistan are the last holdouts of the virus, a passionate and innovative campaign is overcoming all obstacles to reach every child with the vaccine.

Pakistan - a campaign in crisis

In 2014, Pakistan’s effort to wipe out polio was in crisis. Political pressure to root out the virus was being tested, reports of violence against vaccinators were common, and perceptions that the country was an incubator of the disease grew. Massive population movement and displacement had pushed the anti-polio campaign to its limit.
Reports of the disease spiked to alarming levels. The explosive outbreak that year totalled 306 reported cases, up from 93 the previous year. Pakistan had 82% of the world’s cases of polio in 2014. One newspaper editorial at the time called the epidemic Pakistan’s “badge of shame”.
Children in a refugee camp, Pakistan. A refugee crisis created opportunities to reach unvaccinated children.
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 Children in a refugee camp, Pakistan. A refugee crisis created opportunities to reach unvaccinated children. Photograph: Khaula Jamil
The government effectively declared war on polio, condemning the outbreak as a national disaster. “The motivation and the commitment of the vaccinators on the frontline and government officials became stronger,” says Aziz Memon, chair of Rotary’s Pakistan PolioPlus committee. “We had more reason to say, ‘Yes, we need to get rid of this disease and fulfil the promise we made to the children of this country: no child in the future will be crippled by this disease.’”
Routine vaccination campaigns that immunise children door-to-door were no longer enough. Calling it a “paradigm shift in strategy,” senator Ayesha Farooq, who leads the anti-polio strategy for the prime minister in Pakistan, says the revitalised programme focuses heavily on children who have routinely missed vaccinations. “Despite the fact we were receiving 80% coverage in every campaign, the other 10-20% that we were missing out on were sustaining the virus,” she says.

A refugee crisis creates an opportunity for vaccinators

For nearly four years, from 2012-15, half a million children in the federally administered tribal areas in northwestern Pakistan were inaccessible to vaccinators. 
The mountainous, semiautonomous region, including North Waziristan, was controlled by militant groups such as the Taliban, which prohibited polio vaccinations. These areas were not under-vaccinated; the children were not immunised at all. This fuelled the 2014 outbreaks, with about 70% of cases coming from the tribal areas.
After a sweeping military offensive in 2015 pushed the Taliban out, more than 1 million civilians fled to neighboring areas and across the border into Afghanistan. The military action created a refugee crisis, putting tens of thousands of people in camps for the internally displaced.
Still, it also cleared the way for vaccinators to inoculate hundreds of previously inaccessible children, says Dr Malek Sbih, leader of WHO’s strategy of vaccinating children as they travel. 
“The military operation provoked an enormous exodus of people from the region, inside and outside the borders. It’s unfortunate. But fortunately for us, it gave us the opportunity to reach 265,000 kids,” he says.
Even today the country’s high rate of population movement – travellers headed to religious festivals, migrant workers, nomads – poses a daily challenge to the polio campaign. 
Pakistan and the GPEI partners had more than 200,000 trained and dedicated frontline vaccinators fan out to Karachi, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Quetta – the three core reservoirs of wild poliovirus.
The campaign installed more than 600 permanent transit posts across the country. These kiosks operate year-round and provide millions of vaccinations to children and families who are on the move. 
Vaccinators approach a crowded vehicle in Pakistan. A population on the move required an agile vaccination strategy

 Vaccinators approach a crowded vehicle in Pakistan. A population on the move required an agile vaccination strategy Photograph: Khaula Jamil
None are more important than those operating along the 1,500-mile (roughly 2,500km) boundary between Afghanistan and northern and western Pakistan, a porous border that accounts for 90% of Pakistan’s population movement.
Recently the two governments agreed to work closely on synchronised immunisation campaigns. Because Pakistan and Afghanistan are part of the same epidemiological block, Farooq says, “we have to work in tandem with our Afghan partners to eradicate polio from the region altogether. We need to build immunity so that there is no cross-border importation.”
In July, Rotary bolstered this effort by opening a kiosk at the Friendship Gate, a border checkpoint in the Chaman area in northern Baluchistan. Along with migrants, each day, between 10,000 and 15,000 Pakistani and Afghan traders pass through the gate. 
More than 1,000 children are vaccinated at this Friendship Gate point each day. In total, this kiosk strategy has vaccinated more than 68 million children who would otherwise be missed. 
Polio vaccinations teams worked hard to build community support and trust through local services.
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 Polio vaccinations teams worked hard to build community support and trust through local services. Photograph: Khaula Jamil

Challenging fear and intimidation

Public mistrust and intimidation by militant groups played a part in many parents’ refusal to have their children vaccinated. To counteract the intimidation, Rotary opened eight polio resource centres to build community trust in high-risk areas. The centres, in addition to giving polio vaccinations, sponsor health camps that offer immunisations against measles and other diseases, as well as free medical examinations, medicine and eyeglasses. 
Rotary trained local, permanent vaccinators, mostly women, and they have reduced the number of refusals from 87,000 in March 2014 to 23,000 in March 2016 — a refusal rate of less than 1%.
“What we’ve seen is our female vaccinators are driving every single operational gain that is being made,” says Aidan O’Leary, head of Unicef’s polio campaign. It also helps that these vaccinators come from the community. “They know all the mothers and their children. They know when parents are available and when is the best time to reach them.”
Rotary also worked with leading Islamic scholars to form the Pakistan Ulema PolioPlus Committee, which is strongly behind efforts to rid the country of polio. “The committee is doing a wonderful job at holding workshops and gathering Islamic leaders to educate them about how important these polio drops are,” Rotary’s Memon says. “We are telling them that 52 other Muslim countries have eradicated polio with the same polio drops.”
Virologist Shoukat Ullah, who is also a mufti, an Islamic legal expert empowered to rule on religious matters in his community, says outreach to Muslim leaders can make a “huge impact”.
In his city of Nowshera, Ullah attends community gatherings and Friday prayer ceremonies to talk to families and other Muslim leaders about the benefits of polio vaccinations. “People will follow their Islamic scholars,” he says. “Community members will help volunteer … if asked by scholars. We can make a big difference in the perception of polio and any cultural barriers.”
The global footprint of polio has never been smaller. While Pakistan is hoping that its last case of polio occurred in 2016, significant challenges remain. “We look forward to the continued support of Rotary in crossing the finish line,” says Farooq. “We are close to finally ridding this country, the region, and globe of this menacing disease.”
The number of new infections has dropped from 306 in 2014 to 56 in 2015, a decrease of 82.
But refusals happen. About two in 10 vehicles flagged down do not participate in any vaccinations. Whether it’s for religious reasons, or because parents insist that their child has already received the vaccination, team members have to be ready to convince families that the drops they have in their hands are critical to making history.
“With polio eradication,” says O’Leary, “there’s no other health programme in the world that I’m aware of where your goal is zero in everything you do.”
Ryan Hyland is a senior writer at Rotary International
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