Global Health Observatory (GHO)

Care seeking for pneumonia

Situation and trends

Pneumonia is responsible for the deaths of about 1.4 million children under-five annually. Addressing the major risk factors for the illness (malnutrition and indoor air pollution), along with vaccination, is essential for preventing the occurrence of the disease. For deaths to be averted, good quality care is crucial. Vital treatment tools for pneumonia include antibiotics and oxygen.

Appropriate care of the sick child is defined as providers that can correctly diagnose and treat pneumonia. Recent surveys indicate that, worldwide, 78% of children under-five with symptoms of pneumonia are taken to an appropriate provider; in low-income countries, this coverage is 46%. Antibiotics have an essential role in reducing deaths due to pneumonia. In low-income countries, less than one-third (24%) of under-five children with symptoms of pneumonia receive this treatment. Although some 451 000 lives have been saved in the last decade due to the pneumonia deaths averted, estimates suggest that the number of lives saved could reach almost 1 million if both prevention and treatment interventions to reduce pneumonia were universally delivered. Children living in rural areas, poor children, and children with poorly educated mothers are less likely to be taken to appropriate care, as compared to children from urban areas, wealthier families, and those with more educated caregivers.

Some progress has been made in care seeking for pneumonia in recent years. However, accelerated and more aggressive efforts should be taken to scale up effective interventions. Progress is possible – countries such as Egypt and Colombia have been able to significantly increase antibiotic coverage in a relatively short period of time.

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