Pneumonia and diarrhea are the top two killers of children globally.
Together they cause 1 in 3 child deaths, globally. Nearly all pneumonia and diarrhea child deaths occur in developing countries where children have limited access to health services, food, and healthy environments (sanitation, clean water, smoke-free air). The 2010 World Health Assembly Resolution 63.24 urges Member States to reduce pneumonia deaths through coordinated implementation of the WHO/UNICEF package of proven, high-impact interventions (Table 1).
New vaccines provide momentum to engage communities.
Although multiple organisms cause pneumonia and diarrhea, in recent years vaccines have become available against the main causes of both diseases: pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) for pneumonia, and rotavirus vaccine (RV) for diarrhea. As these new vaccines are introduced, health workers have the opportunity to promote a package of ‘healthy actions’ — the behaviors (‘essential family practices’) that increase a child’s chance for survival and healthy development, such as attendance for immunization sessions.
There are synergies between pneumonia and diarrhea interventions.
In addition to the new vaccines, ‘healthy actions’ such as early and exclusive breastfeeding, hand washing with soap, appropriate care seeking, and zinc supplementation prevent both pneumonia and diarrhea (see Table 1). While some of the ‘healthy actions’ take place primarily in the home, others require access to a combination of commodities and services.
The Communication Framework supports development of a Coordinated Communication Plan
This will increase adoption of ‘healthy actions’ and demand for immunization. The Framework, designed primarily for new vaccine introduction, is also relevant for any country seeking to achieve MDG4 with equity by using communication to engage and empower communities to adopt ‘healthy actions’.