Pneumonia: Why Do We Let It Get Away With This Much?

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Did you know there was a "World Pneumonia Day"? It may not sound very exciting, but the toll this treatable disease takes on children around the world should make you sit up and take note. In the time it takes you to read this post, at least six more kids will have died. Childhood pneumonia kills more than 5,500 children every day. This astonishing number is greater than childhood deaths caused by malaria, HIV and measles combined. Yet the breadth of the issue is not often recognized and financial support to counter this killer remains scarce.

But we can turn this tide. Substantial progress has been made over the last two decades. We know now that simple solutions such as exclusive breastfeeding and improved indoor stoves go a long way to protect a child. Vaccines and nutritional supplements are also easy and effective prevention methods. We now possess the tools to affordably treat pneumonia with antibiotic therapy, typically at a cost of less than one dollar.

As with many such global health challenges, the solutions are maddeningly straight-forward, but still hard to achieve. Hence "World Pneumonia Day." With the support and recognition of the global community, this problem can be solved. PSI (Population Services International) recently joined the Global Coalition Against Pneumonia, a group of 80 organizations dedicated to raising awareness about pneumonia. At the Global Pneumonia Summit in New York this week, more than 100 scientists, global health experts, political leaders, public health organizations, donors, and members of the media will help raise awareness with a call for more action, attention and support to fight this disease.

PSI joins that call. In our case, we are learning about whether social marketing can contribute to a solution with two pilot projects in Myanmar and Ethiopia. We think it can. Achievements to date are encouraging.

Yesterday, 19 percent of childhood deaths were due to pneumonia. Let's try and reduce that preventable and treatable number tomorrow. And the day after that....