Public Health Education: The Polio Example
Polio vaccination efforts resumed last year in Nigeria's northern states. For at least 12 months prior, there had been little or no polio immunization in that region, especially in Kano state, because many residents took to heart government and religious leaders' allegations that the vaccine was a part of a global plot to sterilize Muslims.
The coverage gap represented a break from what had been high levels of immunization. And the consequences were huge. The number of polio cases jumped in northern Nigeria, and the outbreak spread to several neighboring countries that had been polio-free, the World Health Organization reported.
A comprehensive public-health education strategy was critical to rebuilding public trust and gaining the support of various leaders, said ASADI conference participant Alhaji Umaru Shehu, professor emeritus, community medicine, University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital. He played a key role in shaping and implementing that strategy, which he discussed at the Nairobi event.