Global killer: Pneumonia

Health advocates from across India have rallied across India to mark the first-ever commemoration of World Pneumonia Day on November 2.

Written by EXPRESS FEATURES SERVICE | Published:November 4, 2009 2:59 am

India’s role in the ongoing global campaign against pneumonia is of critical importance given the rising number of deaths due to the disease

Health advocates from across India have rallied across India to mark the first-ever commemoration of World Pneumonia Day on November 2.

These efforts are part of a global campaign underway in more than 20 countries to focus attention on pneumonia,which kills more children each year than any other illness. India’s campaign is critically important,given the fact that pneumonia takes the lives of 410,000 children here every year,a burden greater than any other country in the world.

“The Indian Academy of Pediatrics is acting at the district,state and national level to promote policies to prevent and control pneumonia on a priority basis. Pediatricians are speaking for children across India on World Pneumonia Day,pointing to proven strategies to fight this neglected disease.” said Dr Panna Choudhury,president of the Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP).

“To have a credible global strategy to fight this killer,we need to attack pneumonia from both sides – vaccines to prevent and antibiotics to treat,” said pediatrician Dr Vipin Vashishtha,who with a Task Force for Pneumonia is organising a Great Pneumonia Run in western Uttar Pradesh. Some 1000 participants from medical,pharmaceutical,civic organisations,as well as local politicians and social workers,are expected to march.

“To fight such a killer disease the various strata of the community must work together. We need to make policy decisions to prevent such a widespread disease. The need for public awareness cannot be under-estimated,” said Dr Jaydeep Choudhury,who is leading a three-day campaign about child pneumonia in Kolkata with the Institute of Child Health and the Indian Academy of Pediatrics’s West Bengal Branch. Choudhury’s team is holding a scientific conference and public rally,which will include parents,nurses and health workers dedicated to detecting,treating,and preventing child pneumonia.

Chennai’s Institute for Child Health is organising a four-day celebration. This celebration will include a quiz on pneumonia for health workers at six local hospitals,and a public rally hosted by the Tamil Nadu branch of the Indian Association of Pediatrics. The state health minister will preside over a scientific programme on November 2.

“Despite registering impressive economic growth in last few years,India needs to do more to provide good health to its vast pool of children,” said Dr Naveen Thacker, past president of IAP and director of the Deep Children’s Hospital Gandhidham in Gujarat and organiser of a state-wide campaign on pneumonia that includes a rally of schoolchildren and an essay contest.

Pneumonia is an illness with diverse causes and risk factors. Specialists recommend a three-pronged strategy of protecting children with proper nutrition including exclusive breastfeeding,preventing infection with vaccination and treating with antibiotics.

The World Health Organisation estimates that two bacteria alone—Hib and pneumococcus—cause 180,000 pneumonia deaths every year in India in children under age five. Fortunately,two effective and safe vaccines against Hib and pneumococcus are available today. Ten states will introduce Hib vaccine into their routine immunisation programme next year,and a government expert group recently recommended introducing the next-generation pneumococcal vaccine in 2010. Experts are also calling for improved training at the community level to rapidly provide care to children who otherwise may die of pneumonia at home without treatment.

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