Preventable Diseases Responsible for Most Under-5 Deaths
May 14, 2012

Preventable Diseases Responsible For Most Under-5 Deaths

The overwhelming majority of deaths among children are the result of preventable infectious diseases, the authors of a new study published Friday in the journal The Lancet have reported.

According to Christian Nordqvist of Medical News Today, the international group of experts behind the study discovered that of the 7.6 million deaths among children younger than five years old in 2010, 18% had been caused by pneumonia and 14% were the result of premature birth-related complications. The third leading cause of death was diarrhea, and in all, 64% of deaths were either directly caused by or indirectly related to infectious causes.

Of those 7.6 million reported childhood fatalities, half of them occurred in Africa, and two thirds of those were caused by infectious causes such malaria and Aids, BBC News noted on Friday. Neonatal causes were the predominant cause of death among youngsters in Southeast Asia, while five countries -- India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo and China -- combined to account for nearly half of deaths of kids under the age of five, the British news organization added.

Dr. Robert Black, the lead author of the study and a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, called the numbers "staggering" in an interview with ANI.

"Of 7.6 million deaths globally in children younger than 5, 1.4 million or 18 percent were a result of pneumonia, 1.1 million or 14 percent were related to preterm birth complications and 0.8 million or 11 percent were a result of diarrhea," he said.

"Despite tremendous efforts to identify relevant data, the causes of only 2.7 percent of deaths in children younger than 5 years were medically certified in 2010," Black added. "National health systems, as well as registration and medical certification of deaths, need to be promoted and strengthened to enable better accountability for the survival of children."

The news wasn't all bad, though, Jason Koebler of US News & World Report pointed out. Overall, the total number of deaths among these youngsters decreased from 9.6 million in 2000 to 7.6 million in 2010, and the under-5 mortality rate has been reduced to 57 per 1,000 live births, he said.

"I think our treatments of [these infectious] diseases have been great successes, and it speaks to our ability to scale up those interventions, but there's a lot more things we can do to prevent some of the very frequent cases of pneumonia and diarrhea," Hope Johnson, a researcher at Johns Hopkins and coauthor of the report, told Koebler.