By integrating prevention and treatment tools to fight diarrhea, countries can maximize impact, reduce costs, and increase efficiency. Integration can also extend to policies that address pneumonia and diarrhea together, since many interventions (like breastfeeding, hygiene, and more) overlap to provide protection against both diseases.
An integrated approach to diarrhea
The integration of diarrhea prevention and treatment approaches can maximize impact. Established interventions like oral rehydration solution, exclusive breastfeeding, WASH (safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene) have saved countless lives, and more recent tools like zinc and vaccines are adding to gains in the global fight against diarrhea. Programs that combine these interventions can decrease expense and increase efficiency. And national policies that encompass all options help tailor approaches for varying needs in different communities.
Overlapping protection against diarrhea and pneumonia
Severe illness and death from diarrhea are among the resilient yet preventable health threats that children in poor countries face; another is pneumonia. Combined, pneumonia and diarrhea account for two million child deaths worldwide each year. The good news is that many interventions to defeat diarrhea overlap with strategies to prevent pneumonia deaths, too. Integrated policies that address diarrhea and pneumonia promise major impact. Cross-cutting preventive strategies include exclusive breastfeeding, handwashing with soap, safe water, sanitation, nutrition, and immunization.
Recognizing the urgency to address pneumonia and diarrhea, as well as the lifesaving potential of a comprehensive strategy, the World Health Organization and UNICEF issued the Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhea (GAPPD) in 2013. This pivotal resource goes to the heart of the challenge and its solution: prevention and control of pneumonia and diarrhea cannot be adequately dealt with separately but only through integrated programs.
Global and local programs must address both diarrhea and pneumonia if we are to move the needle significantly in achieving several Sustainable Development Goals, successfully implementing the United Nations Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, and the Promise Renewed commitment to child survival. Most importantly, integration of proven health tools can ensure a healthy start for every child, no matter where he or she lives. By improving access to cost effective interventions for pneumonia and diarrhea in the poorest communities around the world, we can save millions of lives.
A multifaceted issue like diarrhea requires a multifaceted approach.
Preventing diarrhea and other enteric threats
Diarrheal disease is one category of enteric illness, which enters the body through the mouth and infects the gut. Enteric illnesses do not always cause diarrhea, but they are spread the same way and, as such, share many of the same solutions. Like diarrhea, enteric threats like typhoid and polio are best tackled by integrating vaccines and WASH.
Enteric pathogens can cause long-term gut damage, or environmental enteric dysfunction (EED), which can inhibit the body’s ability to absorb nutrients and is one concrete example of the benefits of integrating solutions like WASH and nutrition.