Why Pneumonia Matters (Guest Blog)

world-pneumonia-day-logo.gifA big thanks to Bill for inviting me over to Malaria Matters.

In less than a week, child health advocates around the world will commemorate the first ever World Pneumonia Day. November 2nd will be bring greater attention—through conferences and events spanning 6 continents—to this disease, which takes the lives of 2 million children every year.

As Bill has written in Malaria Matters on previous occasions, we need integrated approaches to pneumonia and malaria control, especially as both killers often present as febrile illness in young children. A misdiagnosis can lead to inappropriate treatment, wasting valuable time, and putting the child’s life at risk. Integrating control efforts can include training community health workers to distinguish the two diseases, distributing bed nets during immunization days, promoting breastfeeding and adequate nutrition, and educating mothers on the danger signs of both diseases.

Why then, am I promoting World Pneumonia Day and not World Pneumonia and Malaria Day?

Besides a question of verbosity, the lack of awareness and funding for pneumonia is a serious threat to child survival. Less than 5% of Americans surveyed identified pneumonia as the leading cause of child death. And although pneumonia is responsible for nearly 20% of all deaths in young children, it receives only 1.3% of R&D funding for neglected diseases.

As Bill effectively argued, we need to make the pie of child health resources bigger, not compete for a bigger slice. My hope is that World Pneumonia Day will raise awareness and additional funds for the fight for child survival.

There are three simple things you can do to support World Pneumonia Day

  1. Take our online pledge. Add your voice to the growing call for action against pneumonia
  2. Wear blue jeans on November 2nd. Bring attention to this neglected disease by wearing your favorite pair to the office.
  3. Email Congress. Urge your Representative to co-sponsor the Newborn, Child and Mother Survival Act.

It’s not a question of stopping malaria or pneumonia. We have to do both.

Dr. Orin Levine, Executive Director of PneumoADIP

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