Home > Get Involved, Preventable Diseases > Help in the Fight Against Pneumonia

Help in the Fight Against Pneumonia

I can still hear my grandmother yelling “Put your coat on, before you catch pneumonia!”

I heard this repeatedly throughout my childhood.  But eventually, I realized that a coat was not the best defense against pneumonia.

As an adult, I’ve learned that the best chance children have at preventing pneumonia is entirely unrelated to their wardrobe.  In fact, according to The Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia, the greatest factors against childhood pneumonia include exclusive breastfeeding in the early months of life as well as access to vaccines, inexpensive antibiotics and clean cook stoves.

Consider this:

  • Exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life can reduce the likelihood of childhood pneumonia by 15-23%.
  • Safe and effective vaccines exist to provide protection against the primary causes of pneumonia, Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcal disease) and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib). Hib and Pneumococcal vaccines result in a 49% reduction of pneumonia infections.
  • Reducing indoor air pollution and using a clean cook stove results in a 50% reduction in a child’s risk of contracting pneumonia.
  • While antibiotics are an effective way to treat childhood pneumonia, in a study of 14 different countries only 27% of children actually received an antibiotic treatment following suspected signs of pneumonia.

Unfortunately, though we can do much to prevent childhood pneumonia, I was surprised to discover that it is the leading cause of death in children under the age of five.  In fact, pneumonia kills more than a million children each year; more than AIDS, malaria and measles combined!

This is frustrating to hear, especially when we have the means by which to save these lives.

The good news is that, since 2009, The Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia has been working to raise awareness about the toll of pneumonia, the world’s leading killer of children, and advocating for global action to protect against, effectively treat and help prevent this deadly disease. Tomorrow, November 12th, they will mark the third annual World Pneumonia Day and with more than 25 events scheduled in 15 countries.  World Pneumonia Day 2011 is going to be busy, exciting and productive so be sure to check out the map of global WPD2011 events here and see what’s happening near you.

Ways you can help

You can also share this informative video.  The more people know about the impact of pneumonia, the more they can do to help us put an end to these needless deaths.

The encouraging news is that progress is being made.   The Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia (GAPP), issued by WHO and UNICEF in 2009, showed that child pneumonia deaths could be reduced by two-thirds if existing interventions to protect against, prevent and treat pneumonia could be scaled up to reach 90 percent of the world’s children.  Now it’s just a matter of getting out there and getting it done.  Please do what you can to help the fight.  Our children deserve better!

  1. Ando Raobelison
    November 14, 2011 at 10:30 am

    hi, would be greatly appreciated if you could kindly provide the source of the evidence base that ” Reducing indoor air pollution and using a clean cook stove results in a 50% reduction in a child’s risk of contracting pneumonia” you reported in your post above?
    best
    Ando

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  2. Christine Vara
    November 14, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Ando, The statistics included above came directly from an infographic located on the World Pneumonia Day website (http://worldpneumoniaday.org/infographic/). They provided several sources, including one for the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (http://cleancookstoves.org/resources/). Their site includes a variety of research reports, including this most recent study “Woodsmoke from cooking fires linked to pneumonia, cognitive impacts” (http://cleancookstoves.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Woodsmoke-and-Pneumonia-Berkeley-11.10.11.pdf). I hope this information is helpful to you.

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