April 30, 2012 | 2
It is always a thrill when a famous person notices your work. So I was quite pleased earlier this month when former President Jimmy Carter, who was speaking to a group of health journalists in Atlanta, referred the audience to an article that I edited on the tricky transition to a different vaccine formulation that must occur if polio is to be eradicated (polio section starts at 35:45 ; Scientific American comment at 37:30.) Sitting in the audience, I quickly tweeted the author Helen Branswell, who was also gratified by the positive attention.
Something else Mr. Carter said that evening got me thinking about the old saying “You can get a lot done if you don’t care who gets the credit.”
The various projects the Carter Center undertakes to improve global health around the world go under the name “Global 2000.” The former President told us the decision to name the quests to eradicate river blindness, rid the world of guinea worm, or create more sustainable agriculture go under the name “Global 2000 programs” rather than “Carter Center programs” so that everyone who participates in them and makes them successful can share the credit.
So when a Global 2000 project celebrates an important milestone—such as the fact that there were only eight cases of guinea worm provisionally reported in Ethiopia last year (down from more than 1100 in 1993)—the prime minister of that country may rightly talk about “the success of my program to eradicate guinea worm.”
Last year, according to Carter Center, there were just under 1100 cases of guinea worm in four African countries, down from 3.5 million cases in 1986 in 21 countries in Asia and Africa. Guinea worm may well be eradicated in the next few years–only the second infectious disease among people to be wiped out, after smallpox. Shows what you can do when you have committed partners and you don’t care who gets the credit.