Global study reveals impact of pneumonia on world's children

A University study, led by Edinburgh Infectious Diseases member Harish Nair in the Centre for Population Health Sciences, has revealed the impact of chest infections on the world’s children.

The global study, which was led by found that around 12 million children under the age of five are hospitalised with chest infections such as pneumonia and bronchiolitis each year.  They also found that an estimated 265,000 children under five suffering from chest infections die in hospital each year.

Almost all of these deaths - 99 per cent - take place in the developing world. About eight out of ten children who die from chest infections do so outside of hospital care.

The researchers, who carried out the study based on 2010 data, say that the findings indicate the severity of the problem in developing nations. 

Pneumonia has an enormous impact upon the lives of young children across the world. This study shows that much more could be done to reduce infection and save lives, such as by improving access to hospitals in the developing world, or by ensuring that both boys and girls receive similar health care.

Dr Harish Nair, University of Edinburgh Centre for Population Health Sciences

Hospital care

The study found that a substantial number of children under five who became critically ill from chest infections were not treated in hospitals. Around 38 per cent of severe cases did not reach hospitals.  Researchers also discovered that boys were more likely to be hospitalised because of chest infections than girls.

They say this is because male children are slightly more susceptible to chest infections and because families are more likely to ensure they receive health care than female children. This gender disparity was most pronounced in South Asia.

Global study

The study - the first of its kind - is published in The Lancet and supported by the World Health Organization (read the abstract here).

Its results were produced by a large international consortium of 76 researchers from 39 institutions, in 24 countries.  Researchers from around the world produced the estimates by using hospital-based studies of chest infection rates and data on health-care seeking in developing countries.

The study builds on previous research from the University’s Global Health Group, at the Centre for Population Health Sciences.  The group’s previous work, found that around 34 million children develop human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)-related pneumonia (The Lancet, 2010; PubMed) and 20 million children under five develop seasonal flu-related pneumonia each year (The Lancet, 2011; PubMed).

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