Giving Children a Healthy Start to Life

This is a guest post is from Healthy Lives editor Mark Leon Goldberg.

Mark Leon Goldberg here. The following article is from the most recent issue of PSI Impact Magazine, a quarterly publication from the global health NGO Population Services International. The cover story, written by Desmond Chavasse, Ph.D, Vice President, Malaria Control & Child Survival, PSI takes a look at some high-impact, low cost interventions that could greatly improve child health in the developing world. The solutions are relatively simple, but we need more political will (and funding) to fully realize their potential. From the article:

THE GOOD NEWS: More children are living healthier lives around the world than at any other time in history. Child mortality rates are on a steady decline, from 12 million deaths in 1990 to 7.6 million1 deaths in 2010.

THE BAD NEWS: Nearly half of the deaths that still occur are due to diarrhea, pneumonia, malaria and neonatal causes. Furthermore, under-nutrition is considered an underlying cause in almost a third of deaths of children under five.


As the 2015 deadline for meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) approaches, there is mounting pressure to reduce child mortality by two-thirds (MDG4) and reduce by 50 percent the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation (MDG7).

While we have proven and cost-effective interventions to address the major causes of child mortality, accelerated progress is hindered by insufficient and inadequately coordinated funds that would ensure these interventions are implemented at the scale required to significantly improve the health of nations. Cost-effective interventions – such as diarrhea treatment kits (oral rehydration salts and zinc); increasing access to, and rational use of, antibiotics for pneumonia treatment; promotion of hand-washing with soap and micronutrient fortification of food – need to be scaled up if we are to meet the 2015 development goals.
However, funding for these interventions lags behind other health interventions despite the relative importance of diarrhea, pneumonia and under-nutrition in causing child mortality. Additionally, donor consensus on integrated programming remains low despite the obvious health delivery synergies and economies of scale. As a result, adequate funding is not flowing.

Causes of Child Mortality graphic

You can read the rest here, in which some of the innovations are discussed. I encourage people interested in maternal health and child survival to peruse our recent issue. It covers issues from new ways to get fortified foods to children who need them the most to the challenges facing the early diagnosis and treatment of children living with HIV. Check out the whole issue!

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6 comments for “Giving Children a Healthy Start to Life

  1. DoublyLinkedLists
    June 26, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    It’s a shame Jill posted something so obviously inflammatory immediately before your post went up. She pretty much ensured it would be ignored. :(

    • June 27, 2012 at 12:19 am

      DoublyLinkedLists, a warning that you are on my last nerve. I didn’t post anything “obviously inflammatory” to ensure Mark’s post would be ignored. In fact, I put up the previous post a full day ahead of this one, which is clear enough from the date stamps. But you’ve been a Grade-A derailing asshole on nearly every thread in the past couple of weeks, so just a warning that I am very close to bidding you and your frowny-faces farewell.

  2. June 27, 2012 at 11:15 am

    Thank you, thank you for making the distinction between “fed” and “properly fed”!!!! The part of India I’m from instituted a policy a few years ago that made rice ridiculously cheap (1 rupee a kilo) for rural underprivileged people, and the IMMEDIATE result was that people stuffed themselves with cheap rice rather than shell out more money for vegetables. Instant further malnutrition.

  3. chava
    June 27, 2012 at 11:38 am

    I don’t think Jill did anything of the sort. As far as I know, most people realize that child mortality rates are easily fixable with things like clean water, proper nutrition, etc. It’s how to deliver those that’s the issue.

    India is an interesting example. I have heard some dodgy things about their attempts to meat the Millenium goals at all costs–in some cases making things worse rather than better.

  4. chava
    June 27, 2012 at 11:40 am

    Ugh. Meet, not meat. This baby is destroying my brain.

  5. June 27, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    India is an interesting example. I have heard some dodgy things about their attempts to meat the Millenium goals at all costs–in some cases making things worse rather than better.

    Yep. See my comment at #3. Also, there’s been issues with massive governmental corruption at every scale from chief ministers to rural school officials. The horror stories I could tell you about the 2004 tsunami relief efforts alone…

    So the question (where India is concerned at least, I can’t speak to every country) isn’t just “how can we find funds and resources to get nutrients to kids?” but “how can we ensure that our funds and resources actually go to the kids in question?”

    Much trickier problem, that.

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