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Lots of studies released to mark 3rd World Pneumonia Day, but no major awareness impact

Saturday marks the third annual World Pneumonia Day, an effort to raise awareness about pneumonia’s global impact.

This year, quite a few items have been released to correspond with the day:

World Pneumonia Day 2010 activists in Washington, D.C. Flickr, M.V. Jantzen

  • A paper published in the journal International Health forecasts that over the next decade, pneumococcal vaccination could prevent at least 11 million pneumonia cases and 314,000 deaths in children under the age of 5.
  • The International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC) at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health released its annual report, noting mixed progress in pneumonia control intervention implementation. The report calls the rate of new vaccine roll out in developing countries “unprecedented,” but says implementing preventive interventions –such as exclusive breastfeeding during an infant’s first six months — is an ongoing challenge.
  • PBS NewsHour published a post on The Rundown highlighting some other complications:

    Countries need to have a certain level of health infrastructure in place to provide the vaccine, and some NGOs including the charity group Merlin say that excludes some of the poorest countries, in greatest need, from being able to enter the agreement. Others, including Oxfam, argue GAVI needs to renegotiate even lower prices for the vaccines to ensure the campaigns are sustainable.

    Countries that do qualify, such as Nicaragua, face their own challenges strengthening infrastructure to meet the needs of a large scale immunization campaign. Vaccines need to be kept refrigerated, for example, so equipping clinics or adding to existing equipment can be difficult in poor, rural settings.

  • Also a new Lancet study found that smoke from open fires and indoor cooking is linked to severe pneumonia, especially in young children and women. The study “found that the number of cases of severe pneumonia was a third lower among children in homes with smoke-reducing chimneys attached to their cookstoves,” CBC News reports.

Despite the coordinated effort to spark some dialogue about pneumonia, not a whole lot seems to have changed when it comes to actually addressing awareness about the global toll of pneumonia — at least since last year. On World Pneumonia Day 2010, Tom Paulson highlighted some facts about the disease in his coverage. Take a look at this page on the World Pneumonia Day website and you’ll see the “facts” haven’t really changed. Pneumonia is still one of the world’s most solvable global health problems and it still mostly kills children in developing countries.

It is worth asking whether creating a day focused on activism can really change things (a question I’ve wondered about before).

It is difficult to evaluate the overall effect of World Pneumonia Day, but internet search data gives us some clues as to whether more interest is being generated on the topic.

A Google Keyword search shows that very few people are actually searching for information on World Pneumonia Day. The term, “world pneumonia day 2011” received 73 global monthly searches, which is the approximate average number of queries the search term received over 12 months.

Also take a look at this screen shot from Google Trends depicting global searches for “pneumonia” since 2004 (click here to see a clear version of the chart):
Overall, no big changes either.

This doesn’t necessarily mean World Pneumonia Day is not achieving what it set out to do — three years is a short time, after all.


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