5 Things to Know About Childhood Pneumonia
- What it is. Childhood pneumonia is an infection of the lungs, often caused by common viruses.
- Why it matters. Pneumonia is more deadly than AIDS, malaria, and measles combined.
- Who it’s affecting. Pneumonia is the leading cause of death in children under the age of five, killing an estimated 1.6 million children worldwide each year. The majority of children who die from pneumonia are in developing countries where access to care is limited.
- What can be done. Pneumonia is treatable with low-cost, simple health interventions.
- Direct Relief’s plan. Direct Relief is committed to helping kids with pneumonia receive care. By working with healthcare providers in developing countries, Direct Relief will broaden access to resources critical to treating childhood pneumonia in the most vulnerable communities around the world.
An Innovative Approach
People living in rural areas of developing countries often lack access to health services due to lack of facilities, medical professionals, transportation, and financial resources. Healthcare providers serving rural areas are removing some of these barriers by training and employing Frontline Health Workers (or Community Health Workers) to deploy into the community, provide basic health services, and look for signs of medical need to refer back to a hospital or clinic. Studies have specifically indicated that increased involvement of Frontline Health Workers can successfully reduce child mortality by improving case management of childhood illnesses, including pneumonia.
Direct Relief initiatives begin with a baseline survey of the area to estimate the prevalence of children with pneumonia in children under five, identify barriers to care, and estimate the proportion of children that do not receive treatment. Frontline Health Workers use Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to track location data for survey and treatment results data.
In 2012, Direct Relief teamed up with Last Mile Health to launch a Childhood Pneumonia Program in Liberia. The country is estimated to have 470,000 cases of untreated childhood pneumonia each year. Last Mile Health will train, employ, and support Frontline Health Workers in Grand Gedeh County, Liberia, to detect children with respiratory infections, provide home-based treatment, refer to health facilities for advanced care, and ensure treatment success.
The Frontline Health Workers are using handheld GPS devices provided by Direct Relief to track location information for all health survey results, and map the rural roads to improve the speed and efficiency of health worker outreach.
Following a full analysis of survey data, Last Mile Health and Direct Relief will begin a year-long program implementation seeking to increase the treatment of childhood pneumonia by 50 percent in the district of 30,000 people. Direct Relief will ensure access to the medicine and medical supplies needed to treat those children who are diagnosed.