March 24, 2011

Cutting Childhood Diarrhea Deaths In Half

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- In a recent study, it was found that deaths from diarrhea "” a major killer of young children in poor countries "” could be nearly halved if already available interventions such as breastfeeding, hand washing with soap, and improved household water treatment were widely implemented.

Christa Fischer Walker from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA, and colleagues found that an inclusive package of interventions, including access to clean water and improved sanitation, would decrease child diarrhea deaths by up to 92 percent and would merely cost just over US $3.24 per person "” aiding to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4 target of reducing deaths in children aged under 5 years by two thirds by 2015.

The authors used the LiST (Lives Saved Tool) statistical model to estimate the number of child lives that could potentially be saved by widely implementing seven prevention interventions (breastfeeding, vitamin A supplementation, hand washing with soap, improved sanitation, improved water source, better household water treatment, and rotavirus vaccination) and three treatment interventions (oral rehydration solution, zinc supplementation, and antibiotics for dysentery) in 68 countries that together account for 95 percent of child deaths.

They found that a do-able increase in the coverage of all interventions would reduce child deaths due to diarrhea by 78 percent by 2015 at a cost of US $0.80 per capita.  Nevertheless, if these countries were able to give all of their citizens with the package of interventions, by 2015, diarrhea deaths could be reduced by 92 percent at a cost of $3.24 per capita "” forestalling nearly 5 million deaths.

"Using currently available interventions, we demonstrate that with improved coverage, diarrheal deaths can be drastically reduced," which authors of the study were quoted as saying.

"To reach MDG4 by 2015, the number of child deaths needs to be reduced by an additional 4.6 million annually from the 2008 estimate of 8.8 million.  Reducing diarrheal deaths by more than 1.4 million per year would be a major contribution toward this goal."

SOURCE: Public Library of Science (PLoS) Medicine, March 22, 2011