The Union's approach to child pneumonia cuts deaths by more than half

WORLD PNEUMONIA DAY, 12 November 2010
Every 20 seconds pneumonia causes a preventable tragedy somewhere in the world. That's how often a child under five dies of a disease that is preventable, treatable and curable with existing vaccines and antibiotics. World Pneumonia Day, to be held this year on Friday, 12 November, was established in 2009 by the Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia to increase awareness and gain commitment to ending this waste of young lives. Read more


The International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) established its Child Lung Health Division in 1995 to address the problem of child pneumonia, as well as tuberculosis in children and other lung diseases in low- and middle-income countries.

In 2000, the Child Lung Health Programme (CLHP) was launched in Malawi using an approach to child pneumonia based on The Union's successful model for tuberculosis treatment. Elements of this approach included standardised treatment, rational use of antibiotics and a stable supply of medicines, government commitment to funding, careful recording and reporting and ongoing training and supervision. Between 2000 and 2005, the case fatality rate for children under five with severe/very severe pneumonia dropped by more than 50%.

In 2005, the CLHP was absorbed into the Malawi health services, where it has proved to be a sustainable intervention. The case fatality rate has continued to decline to 66% below the 2000 baseline.

"The Child Lung Health Programme demonstrates clearly the fact that children are dying of pneumonia is because of priorities, not because of capability or opportunity," says Dr Nils E Billo, Executive Director of The Union.

Last year New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof called pneumonia "the orphan of global health" in his widely read 9 May column titled "The Killer No One Suspects."

One reason for the neglect of pneumonia is that it is a problem that falls more heavily on low-income countries. For every one child who dies of pneumonia in an industrialised country, 2,000 die in low-income countries.

The Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia estimates that one million lives could be saved annually by widespread use of vaccines and improved access to antibiotics.

"2010 has been the Year of the Lung," says Dr Billo, "so this is a perfect opportunity to make our governments and health services aware that pneumonia is one of our most solvable public health problems. We have safe, effective and affordable tools to prevent and treat pneumonia, and this neglect is not acceptable." (CNS)

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Citizen News Service (CNS), India/Thailand 
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Global Health Council, Berlin, Germany  
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