The ‘plus’ in Polio Plus broadens our mandate to help

Screen Shot 2017-11-29 at 5.57.56 PMBy FRED DANIELS
Governor, District 7190

You’ve heard the saying “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Well, Rotary has been at the forefront of prevention for many decades now, and the leadership at Rotary International and District 7190 are rightfully focusing on prevention in many ways, big and small.

December is “Disease Prevention and Treatment Month” on the Rotary calendar. Of course, we all know about Rotary’s commitment to end polio forever, and this month we’ll have Rotarians in Glens Falls to enjoy an Adirondack Thunder pro hockey game on December 9 to raise both awareness of, and funds for, Polio Plus.

Have you ever wondered what the “plus” is in Polio Plus? The framers of the polio effort included other treatable diseases in the “plus” category, such as diphtheria, whooping cough, measles, and several others that are eminently preventable through vaccinatiion. And, while the emphasis has been squarely on polio, there are throughout the world many large scale Rotary-sponsored efforts to prevent these other diseases.

We are working on numerous projects to prevent disease right in our own backyard as well. Several clubs offer information and service projects aimed at Lyme disease, and one club has taken over the local DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program in collaboration with a sheriff’s department. No less important are the many clubs that participate in hunger-related programs such as weekend backpack efforts so kids who are better fed can be healthier, concentrate harder, and miss less school.

I also know of several clubs that are starting to talk seriously about tackling opioid abuse, and that is a big, complex topic. If your club is interested in this issue, please contact me. I’d like to connect the interested clubs for a deeper conversation.

All of this great work notwithstanding, prevention takes on many forms. Certainly, disease treatment and prevention are critical topics, but there are several versions of prevention that also are important.

How about these?

• Let’s prevent Rotarians from drifting away from our clubs. Getting a new Rotarian to join a club follows the sales process: it takes about 10 good prospects to bring in one new member. In comparison, about 25% of new Rotarians leave a club within a year for reasons which mostly can be controlled. Why do Rotarians drift away? The biggest reason is that they are not engaged meaningfully in the life of the club, and this is something we definitely can control.

• Let’s prevent irrelevance. Rotarians do incredible work, and it is all good. But, this does not mean all of the work we do is perceived as relevant. Has your club leadership recently had a meaningful conversation about the relevance of the club’s service initiatives? How does the community benefit? Have community leaders been asked to identify what the community actually needs the club to be doing? This effort alone can effectively prevent the perception that Rotary is no longer relevant.

• Let’s prevent resistance to change. Rotary is starting to change. Leadership at the top of Rotary International recently took steps to accelerate change. Our clubs are beginning to adopt change, and that starts with taking some time to think through what’s important to the culture of the club. Can those important things be made more relevant? More engaging? Can “how” we do “what” we do be improved for the good? By the way, most clubs making significant changes are reporting good results in membership and vibrancy.

District 7190 is on the right track. We continue to be more gender balanced (34.5% now, still with a ways to go). We are gaining in racial and ethnic diversity, though this needs more work and careful thought. And, we are getting very busy being more innovative, dynamic, and responsive.

Dynamic innovation makes progress in the two other categories easier. As we become more responsive to our communities our clubs’ racial and ethnic composition should look more like the communities we serve. As we are more innovative and dynamic we increase the ability to attract and retain the kinds of members we want, who share the vision and ideals of Rotary.

Maybe the phrase should be, “An ounce of prevention yields a pound of cure.” Let’s cure all our ills, real and perceived. Thank you for the incredible work you do.


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