Nancy Leys Stepan


On the continued appeal of disease eradication

Cover Interview of January 01, 2012

One of the strange things about eradication is how it repeatedly arises, phoenix-like, from its setbacks.

Fred Lowe Soper paradoxically embraced the cause of disease eradication in the 1930s, just as the Rockefeller Foundation abandoned the project. Smallpox eradication was re-born in 1967, just before malaria eradication was given up by WHO. Polio eradication was launched in 1988, just when many public health experts rejected eradication altogether, in favor of concentrating on primary health care.

What explains the continued appeal of eradication, despite the rarity of success?