Commentary: Call to Action on World Pneumonia Day

Emerging Infectious Diseases
Volume 18, Number 11—November 2012

Call to Action on World Pneumonia Day
PDF Version  [PDF – 155 KB – 2 pages]
R. Hajjeh and C. G. Whitney

This month, on November 12, the world will recognize the fourth annual World Pneumonia Day. First launched in 2009 by a coalition of global health leaders (1), World Pneumonia Day aims to raise awareness about pneumonia’s toll on the world’s children and to promote interventions to protect against, treat, and prevent the disease. Pneumonia continues to be the leading killer of young children around the world, causing ≈14% of all deaths in children 1 month to 5 years of age (2). It is a critical disease for countries to conquer in order to reach Millennium Development Goal 4: reducing the child mortality rate by two thirds from 1990 to 2015 (3). Most children who die from pneumonia live in developing countries, where such factors as malnutrition, crowding, and lack of access to quality health care increase the risk for death. Pneumonia kills few children in industrialized countries, although it remains among the top 10 causes of deaths in the United States, for example, because of deaths in older adults (4).

Fortunately, many interventions are now available to reduce deaths due to pneumonia among children throughout the world. On the first World Pneumonia Day in 2009, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund, together with many global experts and partners, launched the Global Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Pneumonia (GAPP) (5). GAPP recommends a strategy of prevention, protection, and treatment that is designed to implement readily available interventions that can reduce pneumonia deaths in children. GAPP focuses on improving nutrition (through measures such as exclusive breastfeeding), increasing access to vaccines that protect from agents that cause pneumonia (such as Haemphilus influenzae type b and pneumococcal vaccines), reducing exposure to indoor air pollution, and increasing access to antimicrobial drugs that can treat pneumonia…