Economic benefits of polio eradication

Child receiving polio vaccine

Ridding the world of disease not only saves lives. It also makes money.

A new study published in the medical journal Vaccine estimates that eradicating polio within the next five years would create an estimated $40-50 billion in economic benefits — mostly in poor countries — by the year 2035.

The economic benefits come not just from reducing treatment costs and improved productivity, the authors say, and are not simply a matter of reducing the number of cases of polio. Eradication of polio, which the international community appears close to achieving despite recent outbreaks in sub-Saharan Africa and Tajikistan, would allow health care workers now devoted to polio to turn to other health needs.

“Polio eradication is a good deal, from both a humanitarian and an economic perspective,” said Dr. Radboud Duintjer Tebbens of Kid Risk, Inc., the lead author of the study. “The GPIE (global polio eradication initiative) prevents devastating paralysis and death in children and also allows developing countries and the world to realize meaningful financial benefits.”

Dr. Tachi Yamada, head of the Gates Foundation’s global health program, added:

“Investing now to eradicate polio is an economic imperative, as well as a moral one,” said Yamada. “This study presents a clear case for fully and immediately funding global polio eradication, and ensuring that children everywhere, rich and poor, are protected from this devastating disease.”

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Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at]humanosphere.org or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.