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1.5 million children could be saved
Date:9/4/2007

Despite global efforts to control it, diarrhoea is still one of the most common reasons for the high child mortality rates in many low and middle-income countries. This according to a doctoral thesis, soon to be presented at the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet. One fifth of all the deaths amongst children under the age of five that are reported every year are caused by serious diarrhoea.

For many years, Chief physician Birger Forsberg has been working with international health issues, and has a particular interest in diarrhoea diseases children in low and middle-income countries. Although diarrhoea-related death amongst children has declined in the past thirty years, diarrhoea is still thought to be the cause of several million child deaths every year.

Research shows that around 1.5 million children suffering from diarrhoea can be saved every year with the right treatment, says Dr Forsberg.

Back in the 1980s the WHO started a special programme to reduce diarrhoea-related child mortality. The organisation estimated that about two thirds of all deaths from diarrhoeal diseases were attributable to violent, watery diarrhoea and acute dehydration. It therefore promoted the greater use of rehydration solutions with sugar and salt additives and increased fluid intake. The recommendations were incorporated in most countries national health programmes and active information campaigns were run through the WHO, UNICEF and national authorities. The use of the recommended treatments (rehydration or increased fluid intake) has increased but not as much as desired.

"Even now, in the first decade of the 21st century, my thesis documents that more than 200 million children suffering from diarrhoea may still be deprived of this treatment", says Dr Forsberg. In the 1970s, when rehydration solutions had their medical breakthrough as a treatment for diarrhoea, no one thought that it would be so difficult to spread its use.


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Contact: Katarina Sternudd
katarina.sternudd@ki.se
46-852-483-895
Karolinska Institutet
Source:Eurekalert

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