What Do Maps Reveal in the Fight to Eradicate Polio?

The World Health Organization and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Share Their Stories at the 2014 Esri User Conference

June 25, 2014

Redlands, California—June 25, 2014—Dr. Bruce Aylward from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Dr. Vincent Seaman from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will share their stories with an audience of more than 16,000 attendees at the Opening Session of the 2014 Esri User Conference (Esri UC) on Monday, July 14. As experts in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, they will describe the challenges and opportunities involved in bringing fundamental healthcare to impoverished regions. They'll also talk about the importance maps have in pinpointing where help is needed most around the world.

"Polio, a terrible disease, is almost completely eradicated, but 'almost' isn't good enough with a disease slated for complete eradication," said Aylward.

Most of the world hardly remembers polio, which has been reduced by over 99 percent in the past generation by vaccination. However, the disease survives in parts of just a few countries, and has repeatedly spread back from these places to polio-free areas worldwide. The urgency of preventing such spread and protecting the polio-free world led the WHO Director-General to declare a public health emergency of international concern on May 5, 2014.

"The polio eradication program is an international effort to reach the most vulnerable people in the world, irrespective of geography, poverty, culture, and conflict," said Aylward.

The Esri UC, to be held July 14–18, will bring together thousands of people from more than 90 countries, all unified by their use of Esri's geographic information system (GIS) technology. Of particular interest to Esri UC attendees will be the use of GIS in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. Aylward will explain how the people working at WHO identify where there are new outbreaks in the world, how the disease spreads, and where it has been eradicated. Seaman will share how the polio program uses GIS-based maps and analyses in high-risk areas to plan vaccination campaigns targeting every child under the age of five and to provide better tools to assess the effectiveness of these efforts.

"At the Esri UC Plenary Session, we like to feature innovative people doing important work around the world," said Esri president Jack Dangermond. "Dr. Aylward and Dr. Seaman certainly qualify. We are honored to welcome them and excited that GIS can help fulfill the mission of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative as the teams of humanitarians use maps to understand and solve problems."

About the Esri UC Plenary Keynote Speakers

Dr. Bruce Aylward is a Canadian physician and epidemiologist and the assistant director-general for the WHO's Polio and Emergencies cluster. He began his career with the WHO in 1992 as a medical officer with the Expanded Program on Immunization. Aylward worked in national immunization programs in developing countries, primarily those focusing on polio, and took assignments in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Egypt, Iraq, and Myanmar. After six years in the field, Aylward returned to the WHO in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1997 to lead the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

Dr. Vincent Seaman is an American health scientist, educator, and a senior program officer for the Polio Country Support Team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Before that, Seaman was a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention secondee to the WHO in Nigeria for nearly 3 years, where he provided technical support to the Expanded Program on Immunization and worked on the polio eradication effort. He began his career at CDC as a Presidential Management Fellow in 2006, and continued on as an epidemiologist in the areas of environmental public health and vaccine-preventable diseases. In addition to leading health investigations at various Superfund sites in the U.S., Dr. Seaman supported the HIV/AIDS program in Mozambique in 2009, and was a STOP Polio volunteer in Liberia in 2010.

For more information about the Esri UC, visit esri.com/uc.

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