Healthy Children are good for Business

Feb 27, 2013


Ashley Latimer
Senior Advocacy and Communications Officer, PATH


Budgets and deficits.  Fiscal cliffs and recessions.  It's hard to find a good-news story about the economy right about now.  Most of us feel like putting our money in our mattress and calling it a day.  But here at DefeatDD, we have just the cure: a feel-good story about health, children, and economics that can make everyone smile.


Since the 1980's, when more than 36,000 children a day were dying of preventable causes such as pneumonia, diarrhea, and malaria, the health community -civil society organizations, governments, and donors - have successfully worked to almost halve that number.  While the three decades of progress has been remarkable, this means that more than 19,000 children are still dying each day from the same causes.

Where is the good news, you ask?  It happens that our arsenal of proven, cost effective solutions to save children's lives is ever stronger.  We know what to do and we know how to do it relatively cheaply.  Antibiotics for pneumonia treatment are less than one dollar per dose. Oral rehydration salts (ORS) and dispersible zinc tablets for diarrhea treatment are also less than one dollar.  Vaccines to prevent against these deadliest of killers are considered a “best buy” in health.  Furthermore, we're effectively deploying community health workers and village volunteers, and are taking advantage of child health days to ensure that children are receiving care in their homes and communities. 

During a recent interview, UNICEF's Anthony Lake said that improving access to these lifesaving interventions isn't just the “right” thing to do; it is also the smart thing to do.  It's basic economics.  With improved access to prevention and treatment interventions, children are healthier and more productive.  They are able to stay in school longer, more consistently, and they keep learning.  This, in turn, is good for national economies.  To quote Dr. Lake, “healthy children are good for business.”

See!  Good news!  Here at DefeatDD, this is music to our ears.  Healthy children are good for families, communities, schools, businesses, nations - essentially our world.  But our work isn't over yet.  There are still 6.9 million children who will die before we can reach them with lifesaving preventions and treatments.  As we work to end preventable child deaths and ensure that all children are able to contribute to their families, communities, and countries, we remain focused on what we know works: immunizations to prevent diarrhea and pneumonia, bed nets to prevent malaria, access to clean water, improved sanitation, and handwashing, access to quality ORS, zinc, amoxicillin, and antimalarials.  Our tools are strong and proven.

Innovations in technology and delivery systems, and improvements in access to quality health care at the community level continue to drive our progress.  As the countdown to 2015 and the Millennium Development Goals draws closer, we have a steep road ahead.  Luckily, there is one fiscal measure we're pretty confident about: investing in today's children for tomorrow's future is good for business.


Photo credit: PATH.