Save the Children Canada

Save the Children Canada

November 10, 2011 18:30 ET

Study Offers New Hope to Prevent Leading Cause of Child Death-Right Before World Pneumonia Day

Save the Children Study in the Lancet Suggests Empowering Frontline Health Workers to Treat Severe Pneumonia at Home Would Reduce Deaths of World's #1 Child Killer

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Nov. 10, 2011) - Children treated at home for severe pneumonia by Pakistan's "Lady Health Workers" were more likely to recover than children referred to health facilities, Save the Children found in a USAID-funded, WHO-coordinated study published in The Lancet medical journal today.

The results come the day before World Pneumonia Day, which aims to focus the world's attention on the leading cause of child death. Roughly 1.4 million children under age 5 die annually from the disease—99 percent of them in the developing world.

"Pneumonia is the top killer of children in the developing world," said Patricia Erb, President and CEO of Save the Children. "The study published today in the Lancet shows that when frontline health workers, most of whom have quite limited formal education, are properly trained, supported and provisioned, they save lives."

The Lancet study addresses a significant barrier to effective treatment for millions of poor families around the world – the difficulty in accessing quality health services. In poor and isolated communities where pneumonia takes its biggest toll, major challenges include distance to a health facility, lack of transportation and costs.

Amidst a global health workforce crisis, Pakistan is one of a growing number of low-income countries to deploy community health workers to improve child and maternal health. In Pakistan, Lady Health Workers receive several months training, ongoing supervision and basic supplies and attend to about 150-200 families at home monthly.

Previous studies have shown that community health workers can successfully treat children with non-severe pneumonia at home and substantially reduce mortality rates. However, current World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines do not allow for in-home treatment when pneumonia is defined as severe (when a child's chest draws in instead of expanding during inhalation). Instead, community health workers are to administer the first dose of antibiotic and then refer a child to a facility.

Around the world, many families never make it to a health facility. Until today's publication, no rigorous randomized study had shown whether community health workers could safely and effectively treat cases of severe pneumonia at home.

"Our study aimed to show that children can recover just as well from severe pneumonia when treated at home as when referred to a health facility. In fact, we found that frontline health workers treating children at home can be even more effective," said the study's principal investigator, Dr.Salim Sadruddin of Save the Children.

Dr. Elizabeth Mason, Director of WHO's Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health, said: "The results of the Pakistan trial are very promising, and we will be looking closely at future studies. If we see similar results in other places, we can update the global guidance to make treatment much more accessible for families, help governments make the most of limited resources, and save more children's lives."

To learn more about frontline health workers saving children's lives and how to support their work, please visit www.savethechildren.ca.

Save the Children is the leading, independent organization that creates lasting change for children in need in Canada and 120 countries around the world.

An embargoed copy of the study is available for journalists only at: http://press.thelancet.com/pakpneum.pdf.

Journalists may share this link to the free abstract once the embargo lifts: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(11)61140-9/abstract.

Photos and b-roll of community health workers treating pneumonia at: ftp://stcpac.savechildren.org.

username: stcpac … password: Photo2day … folder: Lancet Pneumonia Study

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