Chapter 4 of 16
Most infectious disease deaths are avoidable at a low cost
Initiative: Stopping TB
|Most of the 13
million deaths a year from infectious diseases can be prevented. Low-cost health
interventions already exist to either prevent or cure the infectious diseases which take
the greatest toll on human lives. And most of these interventions have been widely
available for years.
Unfortunately for a number of reasons they are not being used. Inadequate funding of health care in developing countries is one reason. Government failure to prioritize, lack of cross-sectoral collaboration and the inability of weak health service delivery systems to reach the entire population - particularly the most vulnerable and difficult-to-reach - are contributing factors.
Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses (IMCI)
Seriously ill children are often suffering from more than one condition at the same time - making exact diagnosis difficult. For these children combined therapy can be life-saving. Treatment may include oral rehydration salts to treat diarrhoea, low-cost antibiotics to treat pneumonia, antimalarial drugs, and vitamin and mineral supplements. Another key focus is prevention through promoting immunization, breastfeeding and better feeding practices.
Millions of lives could be saved every year through the IMCI approach. Correct management of pneumonia and diarrhoeal diseases alone could prevent up to three million deaths a year.
Availability of essential drugs
In Africa, where many of the poorest countries have no more than $1 per capita each year to spend on drugs, fewer than half have access to the basic drugs they need.
User-friendly packaging of drugs is a low-cost way of increasing compliance with antimalarial drug therapy. Studies in Ghana show that over 80% of patients given a course of antimalarial drugs packaged in a numbered blister pack finished the course of treatment. Of those receiving loose, unpackaged drugs - the way they are usually dispensed in developing countries - only 65% completed the treatment.
A simple packet of fast-acting drugs made widely available to parents - together with training to recognize malaria symptoms - could save the lives of many children with severe malaria.
Prevention strategies for HIV/AIDS
Millions of new infections could be prevented through low-cost interventions including:
- access to cheap condoms and, where necessary, safe drug injecting equipment
Other important strategies
Effective health education can also save countless lives - by promoting safe sex, good
nutrition and hygiene, immunization and ensuring parents know what to do when a child is
|© World Health Organization 1999
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