American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Volume 97, Issue 1, 2017
Precisely Tracking Childhood Death
Authors: Tamer H. Farag, Jeffrey P. Koplan, Robert F. Breiman, Shabir A. Madhi, Penny M. Heaton, Trevor Mundel, Jaume Ordi, Quique Bassat, Clara Menendez and Scott F. Dowell
Little is known about the specific causes of neonatal and under-five childhood death in high-mortality geographic regions due to a lack of primary data and dependence on inaccurate tools, such as verbal autopsy. To meet the ambitious new Sustainable Development Goal 3.2 to eliminate preventable child mortality in every country, better approaches are needed to precisely determine specific causes of death so that prevention and treatment interventions can be strengthened and focused. Minimally invasive tissue sampling (MITS) is a technique that uses needle-based postmortem sampling, followed by advanced histopathology and microbiology to definitely determine cause of death. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is supporting a new surveillance system called the Child Health and Mortality Prevention Surveillance network, which will determine cause of death using MITS in combination with other information, and yield cause-specific population-based mortality rates, eventually in up to 12–15 sites in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia. However, the Gates Foundation funding alone is not enough. We call on governments, other funders, and international stakeholders to expand the use of pathology-based cause of death determination to provide the information needed to end preventable childhood mortality.