Three Ways to Improve Child Health. Project Syndicate, November 24, 2016. by Anita Zaidi, Director of the Enteric and Diarrheal Diseases program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
SEATTLE – Over the last 15 years, the international community has made great strides in improving child health. But, with millions of children under the age of five dying each year from preventable and treatable diseases like diarrhea and pneumonia, the job is far from finished.
Most people would say that malaria or even HIV/AIDS are the leading child killers. In fact, diarrhea and pneumonia top the charts as the biggest threats to child survival – as they have for the more than 30 years that we have been tracking them. According to the recently published 2016 Pneumonia and Diarrhea Progress Report, the two diseases caused 1.4 million child deaths last year, and one-quarter of all deaths of children under the age of five. They exact their highest toll in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Tackling the two biggest killers of children worldwide may seem daunting, but we have all the knowledge we need to mount an effective response. Indeed, we know which viruses, bacteria, and parasites we need to target; which interventions are likely to work; and which countries need them the most.