(RxWiki News) On Nov. 12, the world will celebrate the seventh annual World Pneumonia Day.
First launched in 2009, the aim of World Pneumonia Day 2015 is to raise awareness of the toll of pneumonia on the world's children and to promote interventions to treat and prevent the disease. This year, health advocates worldwide marked the occasion by calling on global leaders to ramp up existing interventions and invest in new treatments.
Pneumonia is an infection that inflames the air sacs in one or both lungs. A variety of organisms, including bacteria, viruses and fungi, can cause pneumonia. Pneumonia can range in seriousness from mild to life-threatening. Babies, young children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems are most at risk of serious complications.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pneumonia is the single largest cause of child deaths worldwide. Each year, more than 900,000 children younger than 5 die from pneumonia. And more than 51 percent of those deaths are concentrated in a handful of countries, such as India, Nigeria, China, Pakistan and Ethiopia.
Pneumonia is also a leading cause of hospitalization and death among US adults, resulting in more than $10 billion in hospital expenses each year, according to the CDC.
Many interventions are available to protect against and treat pneumonia. In 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund launched the Global Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Pneumonia (GAPP).
GAPP recommends a strategy that focuses on improving nutrition (through measures like exclusive breastfeeding), increasing access to vaccines that can protect against agents that cause pneumonia, reducing exposure to indoor air pollution and increasing access to drugs that can treat infection.
Despite the treatable and preventable nature of the disease, childhood deaths from pneumonia have barely budged in recent years, according to the CDC.
"This November 12, World Pneumonia Day, we urge the global community to consider the massive problems of pneumonia," wrote Rana Hajjeh, MD, the director of the Division of Bacterial Diseases at the CDC, in a commentary. "Health care providers, researchers, policy makers, and the greater public health community all need to contribute if we are to make rapid, substantial progress toward reducing disease and deaths due to pneumonia. Progress is being made, but much more can be done."