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Experts Seek to Eliminate Leading Causes of Child Deaths

Wavebreak Media/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- A new medical series being published in Lancet is taking on diarrhea and pneumonia, two of the leading causes of death in children under age 5, with a goal of eliminating the deaths in the next 20 years.

Despite the two illnesses being responsible for two million child deaths in 2011 and accounting for over a quarter (28.5 percent) of all child deaths worldwide, diarrhea and pneumonia remain relatively low on the list of global health priorities.

The series, produced by a consortium of public health professionals and academics led by Prof. Zulfiqar Bhutta of Aga Khan University in Pakistan, is intended to show the true global impact of diarrhea and pneumonia while suggesting interventions to effectively treat and prevent the illnesses. These experts believe deaths caused by childhood diarrhea and pneumonia can be stopped over time, or at least decreased significantly.

Dr. Robert Black of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine says these early deaths are a big global problem, especially in underdeveloped countries.

"1.3 million children per year will die of pneumonia and about 700,000 children from diarrhea. So these are very big problems," he says.

But, Black adds, they are problems that can be eliminated with an action plan that has been developed.


"World Health Organization and UNICEF have developed a new global action plan that really combines all of the possible interventions that are proven and cost effective, such that they can can really focus on these two diseases," Black explains.


Ultimately, he says, "We think the mortality rate can be very drastically cut without waiting too long for that to happen.  So in the near term even by the year 2025."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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