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Global Health Centre

Polio eradication: overcoming the final barriers and ensuring a lasting legacy for health systems

  • Lead Research Team: Suerie Moon, Stephen Matlin
  • Co-researchers: Fumi Kurihara, Ryan Patrick Whitacre
  • Former Contributors: Ilona Kickbusch, Michaela Told, Julianne Piper,  Emilia Richard, Marianne Haslegrave
  • Project owner:  The Global Health Centre at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva
  • Project status: Ongoing until end December 2020
  • Key Words: global health governance, Europe, health economy, health financing, health systems, legacy planning, polio eradication, social and political barriers, universal health coverage

The Global Health Centre (GHC) at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva has launched this project to explore the critical dimensions of the global effort to eradicate polio, focusing on overcoming the final barriers and ensuring a lasting legacy for health systems as well as the role of European countries in this effort. The project aims to work with European decisions makers (states and the European Commission) as well as other key stakeholders involved in the process. European actors have been and still are important partners to the GPEI, providing not only funding, but also important political support.  Their ongoing support to the implementation of the GPEI is key to the success of the polio eradication “endgame”.

With the end of polio in sight, attention is shifting to the legacy provided by this momentous achievement – only the second time in history that a virus disease in humans will have been eradicated. The direct consequences of eradication will include the prevention every year of thousands of deaths and permanent paralysis of hundreds of thousands of people – especially children. This requirement comes at a time when the UN agreement on the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals is drawing the emphasis away from ‘vertical’ programmes addressing specific diseases and towards broader ambitions of the continuously evolving global health governance system and universal health coverage. The legacy of polio must also be viewed in the broader context of ongoing and potential future programmes for the eradication of infectious diseases.

In the analysis of results of the polio studies, the project will also draw on what is known about the successes and failures of other eradication programmes to make comparisons and derive broader lessons relating to global health governance. This project involves parallel work streams to encourage European states to strengthen both their financial commitments and their application of diplomacy to address the social and political determinants of polio eradication. The GHC at the Graduate Institute has great experience in global health diplomacy and in engaging constructively with European and global health actors on sensitive issues through these types of dialogues.

Insights from a series of policy dialogues and roundtables in Europe’s hubs for health policy – including Geneva, Berlin and Brussels – and an intensive research effort will be integrated to provide recommendations for European policy makers in relation to polio eradication and reaping the legacy.

The project is funded by a grant of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.


Related resources

Policy Dialogues



Polio Eradication: Lessons for Global Health |

Polio Eradication and Current Transitions in Global Health | in Oslo


After Eradication of Polio - What Next for Global Health? | 6 November 2018 in Stockholm

UK Directions & Linkages in Global Health: Beyond Polio Transitioning | 13 March 2018 in London


After the 2017 elections: Mapping Germany’s pathway to global health | 30 November 2017 in Berlin

Europe's Role in Strengthening Polio Resilience: Linking health systems and health security | 11 October 2017 in Brussels


World Health Summit 2016: Polio Eradication - Challenges, Lessons and Legacy | 11 October 2016

Balancing Resilience and Legacy | 2 September 2016 in Oslo

Polio legacy and transition – what can we learn for SDGs, global health governance and health diplomacy? |  2 June 2016 in Berlin

Polio Eradication: Endgame Challenges, Lessons and Legacy | 13 April 2016 in London

Polio eradication: Securing the legacy of the global vaccination initiative | 12 April 2016 in London

Polio Eradication and the Implications for Health Governance | 11 March 2016 in Geneva