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THE LARGEST NON-MILITARY ARMY IN HISTORY FIGHTS TO WIN ITS FINAL BATTLE
Irene Taylor Brodsky’s documentary short film, “The Final Inch” follows Polio workers across India as they vaccinate children in an effort to eradicate the virus. Community health workers travel from disenfranchised Muslim communities to rural Ganges River villages to the bustling city of Mumbai, in an effort to dispel misunderstandings and resistance - and thus lower the refusal rate.
The Global polio Eradication Initiative is a priority in the world health community. The poliovirus, or poliomyelitis, can cripple or even kill its victims, most commonly children. The virus was eradicated from the United States over 50 years ago when Jonas Salk developed a vaccine. The film is a provocative look at the effort to immunize every single child in some of the world’s poorest and hardest to reach areas. The Final Inch has been selected for the Academy Award short-list for best documentary short. Visit the Flash site to see a trailer for the Final Inch documentary film.
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Nearly 50 years after a vaccine for Polio was developed in the United States, the Polio virus still finds refuge in some of the world’s most vulnerable places. Into India’s impoverished neighborhoods, The Final Inch follows the massive – and yet highly personalized - mission to eradicate Polio from the planet. One of history’s most feared diseases, now largely forgotten, Polio has become a disease of the world’s poor.
A quiet army goes door-to-door, and slum to slum, to reach the last unvaccinated children. The global strategy aimed at hundreds of millions of children becomes intensely personal for the vaccinators working to save them. In the most marginalized Muslim enclaves, children are hidden from vaccinators because American-made medicines are not to be trusted. Others are deliberately kept behind closed doors as a form of social protest by their frustrated communities. For the world’s poorest, saying ‘no’ to vaccinations is sometimes their only political voice. And then there are the millions of homeless children across India, who get the disease because they cannot be found in time.
In all, The Final Inch explores how the final days of any endeavor are always the most challenging and is a profound testament to those working on the front lines of public health in the backwaters of our world. Recalling the painful legacy of Polio in America are older survivors in a wheelchair and an Iron Lung. Everyone’s stories challenge our most basic assumptions about disease, poverty and our own health as a human right.
Born more than a decade after the last American polio epidemic, like most Americans under the age of 40, I always thought of polio as a disease of the past. Or, at least, a disease of other places.
In my years working as a filmmaker and journalist, the polio survivors I saw in the world’s poorest streets merely hinted at this epidemic of human suffering. A fortunate few hobbled along on crutches or in wheelchairs, but the majority of them ambled, crawled or dragged their limp-legged bodies across train station platforms, urban streets and tourist sites. Like so many of the world’s poor who have the double jeopardy of also being disabled, they were beggars. A forgotten, forsaken, population.
When I began making The Final Inch, I quickly realized how many polio survivors are living right here in the United States. Most hide their disability well, thanks to years of physical therapy and favorable health care. But talk to these people, and you realize that beyond the façade of their impaired gait, beneath the complications of their post-polio syndrome, there is a common scar: A memory of painful surgeries, experimental childhood therapies, and the fear of those years when the polio virus attacked anyone, regardless of race, status, or creed. Until just 40 years ago, we were all at risk.
Today, polio has become a disease of the world’s poor. It could be said that poverty is the single greatest risk factor to getting polio. Add to that the volatility of war, a dearth of clean water, and disinformation campaigns motivated by politics and religion. Increasingly, global public health workers are being harassed, injured, even killed in the line of their duty. Mistaken as government emissaries, polio workers carry out an increasingly risky mission.
The Final Inch reminds us that public health, poverty and politics can converge into a perfect storm of tragic consequence. How else can one explain the fact that children continue to die and become crippled for life by polio more than 50 years after a vaccine for the disease has been discovered? Indeed, the obstacles to eradication are more than just epidemiological.
And yet, we are so close. Twenty years ago, 20,000 people a day were getting polio. This year, fewer than 1,000 will. The compassionate and dedicated foot soldiers working the front lines of public health in this film are proof that eradicating this disease forever is humanly possible. Whether it is politically possible, is up to the rest of us.
-- Irene Taylor Brodsky
820 N River St, Suite 201
Portland, OR 97227
Produced and Directed by Irene Taylor Brodsky
Director of Photography Jeffrey Streich
Editor Bill Weber
Original Music by Courtney Von Drehle and Joe Janiga
Sound Design and Mix Lance Limbocker
Producer Tom Grant
Associate Producer Sophie Harris
Field Sound Spence Palermo
Dr. Ashfaq Bhat
Dr. Usha Ubale
Dr. Hamid Jafari
Dr. David Heymann
World Health Organization
National Polio Surveillance Project
The Government of India
March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation
Dr. Larry Brilliant
Irene Taylor Brodsky
Post Production Technician
Additional Field Recording
Additional Field Translation
Mohammad Fawad Khan
Chris Martin, Spy Post
Robert Reinhardt and Snow Dowd, the MAKERS Legal Services
Lichter, Grossman, Nichols & Adler, Inc.
Centers For Disease Control
Post Polio Health International
University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston
Kevin Winthrop, MD
Produced in Collaboration with