After years as the forgotten killer of children, pneumonia
is finally going to have its day.
Literally. Monday November
2nd is the first ever World
Pneumonia Day and by all appearances this could be the tipping point for
this disease. What makes me think
For the longest time, no one knew pneumonia and few realized
that it was global health’s most solvable problem. We had situation after
situation where global
health leaders discussed global health without ever mentioning the leading
killer of children.
But we’re beginning to see evidence of changes. In the last week, we’ve seen that Bill and Melinda Gates know pneumonia
(see their TV
interview with ABC news’ Charlie Gibson). David Lane, president of ONE,
knows pneumonia – and you know that if ONE works on it that U2’s Bono must know pneumonia. Former Senate Majority leader Bill Frist and Rwandan Minister of Health
Richard Sezibera – physicians who have become government leaders – published an
editorial in this week’s issue of The Lancet
calling for more emphasis on pneumonia.
On Monday in New York City, I’ll be joining international
musical star Angélique Kidjo, ABC
News’ Rich Besser, and international economic guru Jeff Sachs at a Global Pneumonia
Summit where we’ll issue a call to action and highlight a three-pronged
approach to pneumonia control and prevention that can dramatically reduce
pneumonia’s impact worldwide.
As nice as it is to have international leaders recognize
pneumonia the reason I think that we’re at the tipping point is because of the
response I’m seeing from the very countries where pneumonia is the leading
killer of children. In Shanghai,
China, recently I was approached by a pediatrician from Bandung, Indonesia who
detailed her plans for public events with the media on World Pneumonia Day. A few days later I got an email from a
colleague in Kinshasa who arranged a soccer match between local journalists and
hospital staff that was followed by interviews that appeared on national TV in
Congo. Most recently, it’s the
walk for pneumonia in the capital of Nigeria, Abuja. This list goes on and
includes The Gambia, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Nigeria, and from India, a
statement from the Health Minister!
These countries represent the very places on earth where
nearly all child deaths from pneumonia occur. The range of innovative ideas is all the more encouraging
because they come from the local voices that are key to sustaining any progress
made on world pneumonia day. And
that is why it feels like the tipping point.
Pneumonia takes the life of a child every 15 seconds. You can make a difference on world
pneumonia day by doing something different from your everyday routine. You can send a letter to your elected
officials, or let the leaders of your local church, synagogue or mosque know
about pneumonia. You can wear blue jeans on Monday or get involved in the
dodgeball tournament being organized by the Best Shot
foundation. Make a donation to
the GAVI Alliance or Save the Children or sign the world
pneumonia day pledge. Or better yet
generate your own ideas.
But in taking a few minutes from your Monday know that you’ll
be joining thousands of people around the world – from Bandung to Brazil - and who knows, maybe you’ll help make
this the tipping point for pneumonia control and prevention.