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submitted by Lauren Newhouse
11/12/2014 at 09:54

As we mark the sixth annual World Pneumonia Day this month, you might be wondering why you should continue to care. You may have heard that pneumonia vaccines have been rolling out all over the world, even to many of the world’s poorest countries. You may think that, with existing interventions, we’ve got the pneumonia problem nearly solved. Or maybe you’re one of those people on the other side of the spectrum that thinks the problem is just too big to solve. Whichever side you’re on, I’m here to encourage you to view World Pneumonia Day as an opportunity to check back in.

Although we are leaps and bounds further than we were six years ago at the first World Pneumonia Day, it’s too soon to breathe a sigh of relief. We must continue to spread the word about this devastating disease, invest in solutions, and advocate for progress to have a chance at winning. For a little more convincing, here are five reasons why we’ve got to remain vigilant in the fight against pneumonia.

 

5. We have effective tools to prevent and treat pneumonia that are saving lives, putting success in sight.

Global health efforts to date have succeeded in reducing the number of annual child pneumonia deaths worldwide by roughly 1.3 million since 1990—nearly a 60 percent reduction. Although the decline has been slower than other diseases, countries like China, India, Iran, Bangladesh, Mozambique, and Indonesia have all experienced dramatic declines in child pneumonia mortality, giving us reason to be optimistic for eventual success on a global scale.
 

4. An integrated approach that simultaneously fights pneumonia and other childhood illnesses, like diarrhea, will maximize lives saved.

The Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhea provides a strategic roadmap for combining care for diarrhea and pneumonia, two diseases that together account for roughly 25 percent of all child deaths globally. Addressing both of these diseases by leveraging common and complementary interventions like proper nutrition, vaccinations, antibiotics, hand-washing with soap, low-emission cookstoves, oxygen treatments, and exclusive breastfeeding for newborns could result in drastic reductions in child mortality. Ensuring continued momentum for this strategy will be the key to success.
 

3. Current investment is inadequate to tackle a health problem of this magnitude, needing further attention.

New vaccine, treatment, diagnostic, and equipment innovations need to advance if we are to get to the finish line against pneumonia. Integrating child health services that can diagnose, care, prevent, and treat pneumonia is also critical to speeding up progress. These needed innovations and services, however, require investment, which is critically lacking according to a new report by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation showing that pneumonia receives a very small portion of overall global health financing. To accelerate progress, the global health community must continue to call on donors to commit funds that support new tools and proven solutions.
 

2. Existing tools to prevent and treat pneumonia are not readily accessible for all, especially in the poorest and remotest regions of the world.

Pneumonia affects children and families everywhere but almost all child deaths from pneumonia occur in poor or rural communities, often due to lack of access to adequate health care resources. To close this access gap, further investment is needed to bring prevention and treatment services to these communities and to integrate quality care for pneumonia and other childhood illnesses in community and health facilities.
 

1. Despite progress, pneumonia still kills more children under the age of five than any other disease worldwide.

If you care about anything, care about this. Pneumonia continues to kill nearly one million children under the age of five each year. That translates to a child dying somewhere in the world every 35 seconds. Combined with diarrheal childhood deaths, that’s nearly a third of child deaths worldwide. Continued work is needed to raise awareness about this massive disease burden and to encourage action. Spreading the word is easy and effective. Guaranteed you won’t be wasting your breath.

 

Check out the World Pneumonia Day and DefeatDD websites for ideas about how you can help.

 

-- By Lauren Newhouse, communications officer for PATH’s pneumococcal vaccine development project

 

For more information:

-- Use these social media tools to help spread the word about the GAPPD.

-- Combining forces against pneumonia and diarrhea in Cambodia. 

-- INFOGRAPHIC: Tackling the deadliest diseases for the world's poorest children. 

 

Photo credit: PATH/Heng Chivoan.

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Indian children
submitted by Sushmita Malaviya
11/05/2014 at 16:33

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi continues to inspire Indians. With good reason too. When he advocated cleaning his own toilet - much to the angst of his wife Kasturba, little did he realize that years on the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi would invoke his legend to get Indians thinking about that never mentioned word - sanitation. 

The new Indian Government has been making the right noises to get the country open-defecation free. In August this year in his Independence Day speech, Mr. Modi literally asked citizens to clean up their act. This had leading business houses commit to the cause. On October 2, Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, Mr. Modi led a cleanliness drive motivating the country’s richest to follow suit.  He certainly has got people excited about something that has for far too long been a “No! No!” topic in India.

The Indian Government faces a daunting task. Some 130 million households in India lack toilets, which gives credence to a number that has been bandied freely - India has more mobile phones than toilets! Let’s not talk about public amenities for now—they barely exist.

With the buzz and commitment that Mr. Modi has rallied in, the challenge now lies in overcoming cultural practices—as toilets in India have still not been able to inspire the notion of “cleanliness is next to godliness.” There are also issues of scarcity of water and defective engineering that have kept populations opting for the outdoors.

There is substantial evidence of the failure of sanitation campaigns and the lessons learnt are important for those committing their time and energy this time round. India’s much touted Total Sanitation Campaigns have sunk without leaving any city with much to remember. The mind-boggling amounts of hard-pressed revenue invested in these initiatives continue to be speculated on in media reports. 

Mr. Modi has given unprecedented momentum to sanitation and this HAS to translate to tangible results.  In the near future, India promises to clean up 1,000 cities under the ambitious multi-million dollar sanitation project as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, whose 150th birth anniversary will be celebrated in 2019. The goal has been set and the monies are going to flow. The question is – when an Indian looks for an amenity – will s/he find one that is usable? 

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submitted by Evan Simpson
10/21/2014 at 14:11

This morning I awoke to some rare good news regarding Ebola.  Nigeria has been declared Ebola-free by the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization. 

And once again we hear what many of us already know:  ORS saves lives.  According to the Associated Press story, aggressive use of ORS is being credited with significantly reducing the mortality rate among those who contracted the disease in Nigeria. (Nigeria Declared Ebola-free; “Spectacular Success”).  From the story:
 

“Officials are crediting strong tracking and isolation of people exposed to the virus, and aggressive rehydration of infected patients to counter the effects of vomiting, diarrhea and other symptoms.”

“Dr. Simon Mardel, one of the world's leading experts on viral hemorrhagic fevers, said the number of deaths could be cut in half if infected people were taught to properly hydrate themselves and do not take anti-inflammatory drugs, which can actually harm Ebola victims… [He] called rehydration a low-tech approach that has been neglected by a medical system focused on groundbreaking research.”

 

ORS has been around for 40 years.  Its cheap, easy to prepare, and highly effective.

Its important, though, that we message ORS use correctly.  It does not stop diarrhea.  It rehydrates or prevents dehydrationcaused by diarrhea and hemorraghic infections like Ebola.  Those who understand the importance of “water out, water in” fully appreciate the value of ORS.  Ebola, like cholera, requires aggressive and sustained use of ORS, which can be challenging for those who are really sick, but clearly it can save their lives.

Countries that have had long histories battling cholera tend to have higher coverage or ORS because they have come to understand the importance of rehydration.  During outbreaks, ORS is often distributed widely, and people in these countries now appreciate its simple, lifesaving power.

In the countries currently reeling from Ebola, I am sure that similarly aggressive distribution supported by messages that reinforce the importance of hydration are underway, and that they too will come to realize the value of ORS, just as Nigeria has.

 

For more information:

-- Evan didn't plan a career in diarrhea. But when he learned about the global crisis and its solutions, it just became obvious

-- About ORS, the simple mixture responsible for saving millions of lives (and counting). 

 

Photo credit: PATH/Tony Karumba. 

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submitted by Deborah Kidd
10/15/2014 at 09:14

“Shh” is a very important sound in my toddler’s ever-expanding lexicon. The dominant – or, at the very least, the most fun – sound in many of her attempts at communication, “shh” can mean fish, shoe, brush. It can tell Mommy to please stop reading that book because it’s time to get serious about this nap. And just recently, “shh” took on a different meaning and my new personal favorite: “wash.”

With a little bit of help each morning, Hazel steps up on the big kids’ stool at school to wash her hands. Chubby fingers under the running water, the pump of soap  in her palm, the bubbles that she gets to rub around all on her own… It’s pure sensory delight! At home, before we eat, or when we come back inside from her ever-vigilant hunt for rocks, when I ask if she wants to wash her hands, Hazel lights up and exclaims, “Shh!”

Little does she know, my daughter is doing much more for her wellbeing than the simple joy that slippery suds bring. This littlest WASH advocate is perpetuating good hygiene and good health with one of the simplest measures around. And by keeping her own hands clean, she’s sharing the benefits of handwashing with her classmates and family, too: breaking the cycle of transmission that circulates the bacteria and viruses that cause diarrhea, pneumonia, and even the common cold. Sure, her hands will get grubby again, and she’ll even get her share of runny noses this season. But with routine handwashing, Hazel is doing her part to keep us all healthy.

Here’s to a Happy Global Handwashing Day for Hazel, her classmates, and all the little and big ones this lifesaving tool can keep healthy. This “shh” is certainly not something to keep quiet about!

 

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submitted by Allison Clifford
10/08/2014 at 08:54

I’m pleased to share that PATH’s Vaccine Resource Library (VRL) debuted a brand-new look and mobile-friendly design this week, taking the site to yet another level of user-friendliness. The new look and feel enhances the site’s accessibility and features many engaging new photos. VRL users will be pleased to see that what has not changed is the extensive database of high-quality, scientifically accurate materials on specific diseases, vaccines, and topics in immunization addressed by PATH’s work.

This user-friendly, database-driven site grew out of PATH’s seminal Children’s Vaccine Program, which started in 1998. Since then, the VRL has gone through a number of changes and iterations over the years to reach its current status as a well respected, centralized repository for key global immunization resources.

The VRL features resources and links to information on a wide range of issues and diseases, including hefty sections with a variety of resources related to biggest cause of severe diarrhea, rotavirus (for which vaccines already exist), as well as the top bacterial causes of diarrhea, enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli and Shigella (for which vaccines are still under development). We also have lots of broader resources that aren’t disease-specific on topics that are related to vaccines, such as advocacy and communications, childhood immunization, vaccine safety and performance, introduction and service delivery, and the major organizations and coalitions working in the vaccine arena.

So, whether you’re looking for something specific or just browsing, I hope that you’ll check out the spiffy-looking new VRL soon!

 

 

Photo credit: PATH. 

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