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VIDEOS: Look Who's Talking About Polio Over A Cup Of Coffee

October 24 is World Polio Day. And now we're getting closer to a world without polio — there have been fewer than a dozen cases this year.

One way people are learning more about the disease and eradication efforts is through a video series, "Coffee with Polio Experts," produced by The Global Polio Eradication Initiative, an organization that has partnered with the World Health Organization and Rotary International, among others, to end polio. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is a funder of Goats and Soda, is also a core partner.

Perhaps the creators were inspired by Jerry Seinfeld's "Comedians ... Getting Coffee" — not that there's anything wrong with that.

Since 2016, five installments have aired with different polio experts. And yes, they do sip coffee. But they're talking about serious stuff.

In one interview, Dr. Ousmane Diop, coordinator of WHO's Global Polio Laboratory Network, talks about new, smarter ways to track polio — like testing the sewage system to see if there's polio virus in the area. If someone has the polio virus, he explains, it will show up in their feces.

In another, Pakistani Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq, the prime minister's Focal Person on Polio Eradication in Pakistan, talks about eradication efforts in her country. Pakistan is one of the few countries with polio cases.

The videos might be lower-budget but there's plenty of drama. Farooq tells how female health workers on the front lines "brave all kinds of odds, whether it's rough terrain, adverse weather conditions, security challenges, to keep our children safe from a disease like polio."

WHO communications officer Oliver Rosenbauer explains that he does administrative work in Geneva, but always loved when his colleagues who work in the field would come back and recount their experiences over a cup of coffee or tea. "They are true heroes in my mind," Rosenbauer writes in an email, "almost a little like Indiana Jones of the medical field."

That's how he came up with the idea for the series. He writes, "I just thought I would still have coffee (or tea) with them, get them to tell their stories, and film it so that others can also get the benefit of hearing about those experiences."

Carol Pandak, director of Rotary International's PolioPlus was the first to be interviewed. She talked about how her organization has been recognized as the first organization to "have a vision of a polio-free world."

Her appearance "got a lot of good comments," she says, "In fact, one of my Rotary members just sent me a note today that she has watched all of the series and has learned a lot about polio."

But there is one concern: Does the show live up to its title? In some segments, including the most recent interview with Dr. Naveed Sadozai, a retired epidemiologist from Pakistan, the interviewer appears to be drinking ... tea?

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Greta Jochem
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