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About SickKids

April 12, 2013

Aiming to virtually eliminate the two top killer diseases of children worldwide

SickKids contributes to international collaboration focused on drastically reducing child deaths caused by diarrhea and pneumonia

TORONTO – Approximately two million children less than five years old die of diarrheal illness or pneumonia each year – this is more than the total number of children under the age of five in Canada in 2012.  Research published in The Lancet’s Childhood Pneumonia and Diarrhoea Series set the stage for a global approach that can drastically reduce child deaths caused by these two diseases by 2025.  

Childhood deaths from diarrhea and pneumonia alone cause more than one quarter of child deaths worldwide. According to The Lancet series targeting just 15 countries could eliminate up to 75 per cent of these child deaths.

The Lancet series is comprised of four papers and was led by The Aga Khan University and Dr. Zulfiqur A. Bhutta, one of the world’s leading global child health researchers. Dr. Bhutta recently completed a sabbatical with the Programme for Global Paediatric Research (PGPR), now part of Global Child Health at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), which Bhutta is joining permanently in July.

“We have a great opportunity to eliminate diarrhea deaths within a generation and also substantially reduce pneumonia burden and deaths; the key is implementation and a focus on reaching the poor,” says Bhutta.

The research was supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and is the product of two years’ coordinated collaboration, led by The Aga Khan University, between a number of the world’s most notable global health institutions, including Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Boston University School of Public Health and Development, and the Programme for Global Paediatric Research. WHO and UNICEF will be leading the action plan to take results of the research project into the field.

During the past two years Dr. Bhutta has led a number of SickKids researchers to produce important systematic reviews to determine the most important ways to tackle life-threatening diarrheal diseases.  This work has already led to nine published companion papers that helped inform The Lancet Series.

“The involvement of PGPR and the larger community of global health researchers within SickKids in this seminal work is an exciting step forward for the health of children around the globe,” says Dr. Alvin Zipursky, Chair and Scientific Director of PGPR at SickKids. “PGPR has been working at SickKids, and worldwide, for almost a decade to bring together the global community of clinicians and researchers to focus on the health of children in developing countries. This is a tangible step toward reducing the deaths of some of the world’s most vulnerable children.”

For more information about The Lancet Series please listen to the podcast with Dr. Bhutta or read the Executive Summary.

For more information, please contact:

Caitlin McNamee-Lamb
The Hospital for Sick Children
Phone: 416-813-7654 ext. 1436
email: caitlin.mcnamee-lamb@sickkids.ca