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Public EnemiesHarvey Chan

Public Enemies (continued)

Deadly Duo


Staggering numbers of young children die preventable deaths. Of the 7.6 million worldwide who died in 2010 before reaching their fifth birthday, 1.4 million succumbed to pneumonia. Prematurity, the next leading cause of death in children, takes the heaviest toll on neonates and babies up to about 6 months, says Robert Black, MD, PhD, chair and the Edgar Berman Professor of International Health.


Pneumonia deaths of children are declining faster (3 percent) than deaths from preterm birth complications (2 percent). Although Black’s most recently published data suggest a decline in the total number of deaths between 2000 and 2010, it’s not sufficient, cautions the researcher, to reach Millennium Development Goal 4, seeking by 2015 to cut child mortality by two-thirds.


Local community health workers bearing antibiotics now are treating and diagnosing much of the world’s pneumonia and diarrhea cases. India has upward of 600,000 community health workers, and Ethiopia, 20,000, according to Black.  

Final Take

“We don’t yet have good interventions to reduce the rates of premature birth. But we can address some complications resulting from prematurity [with kangaroo-care which promotes immediate breast feeding and skin-to-skin contact with the mother] as well as mortality from pneumonia [with newly implemented vaccines, for instance, and cook-stoves engineered to reduce indoor air pollution].”



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