Ending Polio: Conquering the Crippler, Working with the Aftermath

Ann Lee HusseyAnn Lee Hussey is being honored as a Champion of Change for her efforts in being a Rotarian.


I don’t recall ever thinking, “I want to change the world.” Today, I feel I am. Because of Rotary, I have been given the opportunity to become more than I ever dreamed of, to find passion I never expected to feel, to make a real difference in the lives of the world’s children.

As a child, I grew up trying not to think about my polio; as an adult, my challenges became the motivation behind my work to eradicate the disease. Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. It invades the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis, and often death, in a matter of hours. No child today should ever have to experience the crippling effects of polio, a preventable disease.

I am grateful to have personally placed two drops of vaccine into the mouths of thousands of precious children. Traveling to distant lands, giving thanks to those who work constantly in the campaigns, creating strong advocates leading teams of volunteers, all the while inspiring others to do more, is the focus of my eradication efforts.

In 1985 Rotary International launched PolioPlus, the first and largest international humanitarian public and private-sector public health initiative. Today the Global Polio Eradication Initiative comprised of Rotary, the Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization and UNICEF has reduced the number of polio cases in the world by 99% over the past 28 years. The governments of the world play an incredible role and I give thanks for the more than $2 billion contributed by the United States. As a volunteer, I am proud to have had the privilege to be a part of our success; we must continue until we reach our goal and polio is no more.

Through my travels in the developing world, I have met thousands of polio survivors, witnessed their difficulties, and turned my attention to improving their lives. The work that lies ahead seems endless. It is estimated that between 12 and 20 million polio survivors live in the world today. In countries with weak health care systems, many are left struggling with their mobility issues. Even in our own nation, major needs are often not met. Joan Headley, Director of Post-Polio Health International cites, “Aging polio survivors as a group (estimated to be 750,000) now need and will need more and more the services of Medicare (hospitalization; physician care; access to treatment- pharmaceuticals and equipment) and for some (more than survivors like to think) Medicaid and availability of accessible housing, as the ability to do activities continues to decline.”

We all must do more. All children, everywhere, regardless of their color, nationality or religion deserve the right to healthcare and an opportunity to walk in a world free from polio. In the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “Our ability to work together is what will make our victory over polio endure. Because of what you have done and what we will continue to do until this dreaded disease is defeated, is come together like a family. Do what we do best, lift each other up.”

If you wish to help, please visit: www.endpolionow.org.If you wish to change the world, join Rotary. www.rotary.org

To receive the White House Champion of Change award is a tremendous honor.

Ann Lee Hussey currently serves on the board of Port Resources.

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