Polio Australia will be promoting polio awareness throughout the month of October 2011, with a concerted effort being made during Post-Polio Health International’s (PHI) “We’re Still Here” week – Sunday 9 to Saturday 15 October. You can download a Polio Awareness Month poster here.

This year, we will once again be asking polio survivors and their supporters to “Wear Orange for Polio Day” – which can be any day between Sunday 9 and Saturday 15 October! Remember to take a photo and upload it here.

Click here to see this year’s Polio Awareness Month photo gallery.

Click here for Polio Awareness Month photo galleries from prior years.

Click here to link with “We’re Still Here” stories on “The End of Polio” Campaign website.

Check here for Polio Awareness Month activities being held around Australia.


Australia’s Polio Community – forgotten and invisible

Australia has a forgotten community which is as vast as it is invisible – our polio survivors. October is National Polio Awareness Month and Polio Australia encourages people to “Wear Orange” between the 9th and 15th of the month to show support. “We’re Still Here!” is the catchcry of tens of thousands of Australians who contracted polio during epidemics between the 1920s and 1960s. There have also been a number of polio survivors who migrated to Australia from countries where polio was more recently eradicated, or is still active.

Unfortunately, establishing the exact number of Australia’s polio survivors is incredibly difficult. Although polio became a notifiable disease in 1922, contemporaneous evidence during the epidemics last century and more recent State Network records reveal that many cases of polio were not reported. Reasons include people being cared for at home, living in isolated areas, or the stigma attached to having contracted polio. In addition, many hospital records have since been destroyed due to practices at the time or as the result of hospital fires, moves, or closures. We also know there were a large number of ‘sub-clinical’ cases – including siblings of polio survivors who had polio – who only experienced ‘flu-like symptoms’ and were never actually diagnosed with polio. Added to that are the number of people who were misdiagnosed with, for example, encephalitis or influenza. Arguably, polio survivors form the largest single group of people with physical disabilities in Australia, yet this is unrecognised by policy makers, the community at large, and indeed the polio survivors themselves.

Polio survivors are to a large extent invisible in the community. However, many are now experiencing new symptoms known as the Late Effects of Polio which are having a significant and negative impact on people’s mobility and independence. The Late Effects of Polio can include:

  • pain in muscles and/or joints;
  • unaccustomed fatigue unrelated to activity;
  • decreased strength and endurance;
  • weakness and muscle atrophy;
  • muscle spasms/twitching;
  • respiratory and sleep problems; and
  • swallowing or speaking difficulties.

Knowledge about the Late Effects of Polio and their impact upon the lives of polio survivors and their families is almost non existent amongst the medical profession and organisations such as Centrelink, for example.

According to Polio Australia’s President, Gillian Thomas, “Many polio survivors who have emerging symptoms tell me about the difficulty they have in obtaining correct diagnosis and treatment.”

She goes on to say, “As time passes, an increasing number of previously ‘stable’ persons with a history of polio infection experience new symptoms. The large number of survivors who are now reporting these symptoms has transformed the problem from an individual predicament to a social concern.” 
“Although there are thousands of us around, we are virtually ‘invisible’ in the community because we have been conditioned from an early age to blend in and ‘just get on with it,” Gillian says.

Polio Australia was established in 2008 to represent the needs of polio survivors through centralised information provision and in the development and delivery of comprehensive education programs to the polio community and their health professionals. It receives no government funding, relying totally on philanthropy and donations.

In order to capture important statistical data on Australia’s polio community, Polio Australia set up an Australian Polio Register and encourages everyone who contracted polio, either in Australia or overseas, to add their details. People can choose to have their information displayed on Polio Australia’s website, or it can be kept confidential and just added to aggregate data.

“Our strength lies in our numbers,” said Gillian, “so please help us to get you the services you need by signing up.”

The Australian Polio Register can be completed online here or a hard copy can be downloaded and posted to Polio Australia, PO Box 500, Kew East, 3102.

For information about interviews and photo opportunities: Mary-ann Liethof, National Program Manager, Polio Australia on Ph: 03 9016 7678 or contact us here.

Post-Polio Health International
Plan now for 2011 activities! 

As Post-Polio Health International embarks on its fifth WE’RE STILL HERE! week, October 9-15, 2011, remember that part of the aim is to spread the word that polio survivors, even as we age, can help ourselves and others. That is why each year we pick a focus that encourages action and makes the world a better place for all people with disabilities.

Spiritual well-being encompasses our exploration and discovery of the things that are important in life and our personal connection to them. Spiritual well-being can be associated with a specific religion but does not have to be. It is however, part of post-polio health. PHI is gathering resources to assist your group in approaching places of worship. Perhaps you know of an innovative solution for making a place of worship accessible. If so, please send a photo, so we can share it.

Show your support for End Polio Now on World Polio Day – 24 October

 Rotary International News — 27 September 2011

Demonstrate support for Rotary’s End Polio Now campaign and promote Rotary in your community by planning an event around World Polio Day, 24 October.

Many Rotarians have already gotten started. Australian club members are working with the Global Poverty Project on a petition drive to persuade world leaders to fully fund the critical work of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. Supporters can sign the petition online.

The Global Poverty Project is planning an End of Polio Concert on 28 October to coincide with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, Australia. Rotarians have teamed up with the group to lobby leaders to put polio eradication on the agenda. Hugh Evans, cofounder and CEO of the Global Poverty Project, will be a speaker at the 2012 RI Convention in Bangkok, Thailand.

Since 1985, eradicating polio has been Rotary’s top priority. Largely through the efforts of Rotarians and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, the campaign is “this close” to its goal. Polio cases worldwide decreased by more than 40 percent during the first eight months of 2011, compared with the same period in 2010. And India — one of the four countries where the virus remains endemic (the others are Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan) — reported only one case during that time.

As of September, Rotarians have raised US$190 million toward Rotary’s US$200 Million Challenge to match $355 million in grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Though the polio eradication campaign has made great progress, challenges remain. Seeing the job through to the finish will require redoubled effort and commitment.

World Polio Day puts the campaign in the spotlight, providing an excellent opportunity for clubs and districts to promote the End Polio Now message in their communities.

Here are a few ways you and your club can help:

Begin planning for an End Polio Now lighting to celebrate Rotary’s anniversary on 23 February.

Planning a fundraiser or project for World Polio Day? Let us know at [email protected]

The End of Polio - logo The End of Polio Concert – 28th October

The world stands on the brink of eradicating polio – a debilitating disease that pulls vulnerable individuals deeper into poverty.

Global collaboration over three decades has reduced cases by 99% – bringing the end within reach. But crucial vaccination work is being constrained by a global funding gap, threatening the prospect of eradication.

On the 28th October, in Perth, against the backdrop of the largest ever gathering of Commonwealth leaders, The End of Polio Concert will drive polio eradication back into the international spotlight, demonstrating the mass public support required to bring an end to this debilitating disease.

The Concert will highlight our generation’s opportunity to end this debilitating disease, and change the course of history. Thousands of campaign supporters from around the country will come together to hear live music from a great line-up of national and international music stars, and raise their voices in support of investment in polio eradication.

As Commonwealth leaders meet to discuss global and Commonwealth issues, we’ll combine the power and the pull of a concert with the passion and influence of a community driven movement – to propel polio eradication onto the international agenda.

The culmination of months of local campaigning, The End of Polio Concert will bring together thousands of people to call on world leaders to realise this monumental opportunity – providing a compelling mandate for Australian, and Commonwealth, leaders to invest in polio eradication efforts and close the funding gap currently limiting vaccination efforts.