Rotary continues to fight diseases and make strides in health care

By John Wahlund, Area of Focus Manager for Maternal and Child Health & Disease Prevention and Treatment

This year, 2015 ushered out the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and introduced the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the period 2015-2030. Rotary International’s Area of Focus goals and policies in Disease Prevention and Treatment were a direct response to and reflection of the MDGs. The new SDGs are broader and more expansive in international development, and were developed in a much more inclusive and consensus building environment than the MDGs.

UN Sustainable Development Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages, addresses how we could create a healthier world through disease prevention and treatment. Learn more about the specific targets that fall under this area. Within this area, Rotary International’s commitment, accomplishments and ever expanding scope of health care projects and programs has never been stronger. We remain completely aligned with and committed to successful achievement of the SDGs.

There has been a dramatic shift in morbidity and mortality rates in the last fifteen years reflecting a significant decrease in sickness and death from communicable diseases; correspondingly there has been a significant increase in sickness and death from non-communicable diseases (NCDs). NCDs include cancers, heart diseases, diabetes and neurological diseases. They have become the greatest threats and equalizers in global health and account for 80% of all illness and death around the world. As life expectancy has risen around the world, so has the prospect of acquiring what used to be regarded as ‘first world’ diseases.

During a subnational polio immunization day, a Rotarian visits a children's center in an underdeveloped urban neighborhood outside Lucknow, India.
During a subnational polio immunization day, a Rotarian visits a children’s center in an underdeveloped urban neighborhood outside Lucknow, India.

Rotary’s strengths and accomplishments in the area of disease prevention and treatment include:

  • PolioPlus has a strongly developed Rotarian program model in place. This regional and community level model can be utilized extensively in all disease prevention and treatment initiatives throughout the world.
  • Rotarians have a proven track record of partnering with local governments and organization in projects addressing HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria, polio, dengue and other communicable diseases. These targets remain paramount on the UN SDG agenda.
  • The Rotary Foundation has funded almost 2,000 projects and programs to build healthier communities all across the world. The Rotarian network remains active in their communities, which presents potential for expanding and scaling up focused programs that emphasize strategic partnering with governments and the private and NGO sectors.
  • Foundation grant activity in disease prevention and treatment demonstrates that Rotarians have broad sector interests and strong local impact. Differing regionally, priority areas of Rotarian involvement include; medical and dental equipment, blindness prevention and treatment, public health and sanitation activities, and nutrition and childhood disease projects. Other successful and popular project types address rehabilitation and physical therapy, malaria, HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases, lifesaving and congenital surgeries, and large scale prevention and treatment projects targeting diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
  • The greatly increasing use of Rotarian Vocational Training Teams are providing health care training and provision of on-site services in many areas of disease treatment throughout the world.

This broad menu of activities can be harnessed into larger more focused projects utilizing existing Rotarian resources such as Rotarian Action Groups and developing new regional partnerships to create a healthier world.



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