Help Stop Pneumonia, the Leading Infectious Killer of Children
Nov 12, 2014

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Every 20 seconds a child dies from pneumonia.

This is the tragic reality we face, despite the fact that pneumonia is one of the most solvable problems in global health today.  As we mark World Pneumonia Day each year on November 12th, we commit ourselves to raising awareness about pneumonia’s toll and promoting interventions that can protect against, treat, and prevent the disease.  Today I ask you to support the Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia in their fight against the world’s leading killer of children under age five.   Please help share key facts about pneumonia and ask others to take simple actions that can help combat pneumonia worldwide.

WPD_Logo_BannerKey Facts

Pneumonia is the leading infectious killer of children under five years old.

In 2013 alone, more than 900,000 children died from pneumonia, accounting for 15% of mortality worldwide in those under five years of age, and children in poor and rural communities are most affected.

Pneumonia creates an economic burden for families, communities, and governments.

Preventing pneumonia not only saves money that is spent on treatment, but it also allows children to become healthy, productive adults. The fact is that scaling up coverage of vaccines against Hib and pneumococcus in the world’s 73 poorest countries (2011-2020) would avert $51 billion dollars in treatment costs and productivity losses. This increase in vaccine coverage would also save 2.9 million lives and prevent 52 million cases of illness.

Ways We Can Protect Against, Prevent and Treat Pneumonia

To advance progress, we must continue to scale up interventions that we know will save children’s lives, including continued access to vaccines, proper antibiotic treatment, improved sanitation, as well as the promotion of practices such as breastfeeding, frequent hand washing, care seeking, and the use of clean cookstoves to reduce indoor air pollution.

Vaccines against pneumococcus, Hib, pertussis, and measles can prevent a significant portion of pneumonia cases from ever occurring.  Meanwhile, other preventative strategies include zinc supplementation for children with diarrhea, prevention of HIV infection in children & antibiotic prophylaxis for HIV-infected children.  Additionally, we need to improve access to services and ensure effective and integrated case management strategies that provide children with proper and timely treatment.  For instance, antibiotics, such as amoxicillin, can prevent the majority of pneumonia deaths, and cost only about $US 0.21-0.42 per treatment course.

Pneumonia in the United States

While 99% of all childhood deaths from pneumonia occur in the developing world, children in the United States are also dying from pneumonia.  However, the U.S. has made great strides in protecting children from pneumonia through vaccination. In March 2010, the 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) replaced the seven-valent vaccine in the U.S. and studies show that the effect of the vaccine has been significant in the reduction of pneumococcal hospital admissions in children under age five, as well as among some adult age groups as well.  The data suggests that this is a direct benefit of herd protection and progress is being seen across the country. Tennessee, for example, is experiencing historically low rates of pneumonia hospitalizations in children under the age of two as a result of pneumococcal conjugate vaccines introduced since 2000.

In spite of all our successes, pneumonia still kills approximately 50,000 people in the United States each year, 85% of whom are adults aged over the age of 65 years. In response to these statistics, the CDC is now recommending pneumococcal conjugate vaccine for adults over the age of 65.  No one should suffer from pneumonia, and vaccines provide us with the ability to help prevent many of these infections.

How You Can Help

Pneumonia is one of the most solvable problems in global health. We have the safe, effective and affordable tools necessary to help prevent children from contracting pneumonia and treat those suffering with this illness.

We just need to work together to make pneumonia a priority.  If you want to be part of the solution, I encourage you to use your voice to share important messages on your social networks.

Pneumonia Resources

Access additional information about pneumonia in the links below and help others learn about how they can add their voice to the fight!


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