November 12, 2014
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Leaders call for integrated approach to prevention on World Pneumonia Day

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In an effort to end preventable pneumonia-associated deaths among children, World Pneumonia Day is being observed on Nov. 12 to encourage leaders to increase universal access to pneumonia prevention and treatment.

More than 2,500 children aged younger than 5 years die from pneumonia, accounting for approximately 1 in 6 deaths among children in that age group, according to a press release.

Pneumonia disproportionately afflicts the most marginalized and the poorest children, accounting for the deaths of almost 1 million children under 5 each year, according to UNICEF’s latest estimates,” Mickey Chopra, UNICEF Chief of Health, said in the release.

Mickey Chopra

Mickey Chopra

Together, pneumonia and diarrhea account for 25% of all deaths among children aged younger than 5 years, according to the release. Many children die from pneumonia because proven interventions are not available to them.

Equitable access to proper prevention, diagnosis and care could significantly decrease child mortality due to pneumonia.

“Tackling pneumonia requires an integrated approach to look at ways to prevent and protect children from developing pneumonia in the first place, as well as ways to accurately diagnose and treat the infection when present,” Flavia Bustreo, MD, MPH, WHO assistant director-general for family, women’s and children’s health, said in the release. “To prevent exposure to indoor air pollution is one of the key interventions. Globally, more than 50% of pneumonia deaths among children under 5 are linked to household air pollution.”

New and inexpensive ways of diagnosing and treating pneumonia in low-resource settings are crucial to decreasing child deaths from pneumonia.

Though the number of deaths among children aged younger than 5 years has significantly decreased since 1990, many countries are not expected to achieve the Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG4) of reducing mortality among children aged younger than 5 years by two-thirds by 2015.

“Combatting pneumonia is essential to achieving the Millennium Development Goals related to health and child survival, and to laying the groundwork for ending all preventable maternal and child deaths by 2030,” Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General, said. “We need a persistent and integrated approach to this preventable and treatable killer of children. I call on all sectors to come together now to defeat this disease.”