posted 2011-02-09 13:30:30

Bill Gates discusses Polio eradication at the Roosevelt House


History houses the future

Bill Gates discusses eradication at the Roosevelt House

Jenady Garshofsky

Associate News & Features Editor

Spring semester at Hunter College opened with a visit from Bill Gates.

On Jan. 31, Gates stopped by Hunter College’s historic Roosevelt House to speak about the need for polio eradication; appropriately, it was in that same house that Franklin D. Roosevelt recovered after he fell victim to polio at the age of 39.

“Eradication will have three huge benefits,” Gates wrote in his annual letter to the public, which he shared with the audience at Hunter. “First, getting rid of polio will mean that no child will die or be paralyzed from the disease in the future. Second, eradication could save the world 50 billion dollars in 25 years. Third, the success will energize the field of global health by showing that investments in health led to amazing victories.”

According to Gates, though polio is confined to 1 percent of the world, it still poses a threat to global health. “We need more money, more targeted vaccines, more political will and some good luck,” Gates emphasized. “If we don’t wipe out polio, isolated cases will spread.”

A step has been taken in the right direction. In 2010, Polio existed in only four countries: Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, Pakistan.

The panel discussion, hosted by Diane Sawyer, anchor from ABC World News, included Dr. David Oshinsky, Dr. Ciro de Quadros, Prof. Helen Rees, His Excellency Owais Ahmed Ghani and Bill Gates himself. The 35-minute discussion, followed by a Q&A, explained the importance of continued dedication and fundraising in making the mission successful.

In the 20th century, the March of Dimes campaign served as a charity organization to promote awareness and raise money to end polio in the United States. The organization, founded by FDR in 1938, used public activism instead of relying on the government and private sector lobbyists.

“Vaccines are there. We as kids collected dimes, those dimes turned into tens and millions. It explains a moral imperative to create a new March of Dimes,” said Dr. David Oshinsky, author of “Polio: An American Story.”

“The March of Dimes challenged the American people. They had strategy and knowledge to push forward for the children of the world.”

Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, announced new donations last week, which will help in efforts to raising the 720 million dollars that is still needed to eradicate Polio completely.

Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation advocates for health, wrote “if societies can't provide for people's basic health, if they can't feed and educate people, then their populations and problems will grow and the world will be a less stable place.”