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Child health 

Child health
Child health

Elizabeth Mason

, Olivier Fontaine

, Bernadette Daelmans

, Rajiv Bahl

, Cynthia Boschi-Pinto

, and Jose Martines

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date: 19 May 2022

This chapter focuses on the health status of children, particularly those less than five years of age—the main health risks faced by this age group and the interventions that promote their survival, growth, and development.

The under-five mortality rate (U5MR) is one of the most sensitive indicators of the socioeconomic status and well-being of a society, and has been chosen to monitor the global and national achievements of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4 of reducing, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate by two-thirds. The Global U5MR burden remains unacceptably high. Moreover, progress in reducing under-five mortality is not equally distributed across countries and regions. Poverty and its consequences are directly or indirectly associated with most of the poor outcomes in child health.

Most children suffer and die from a small number of conditions—the main causes of morbidity being highly correlated with the major causes of death. Likewise, child growth, nutritional status, and development are intertwined. Strikingly, even in the poorest settings, a significant proportion of these outcomes could be prevented with a few interventions that are well-known, feasible, deliverable without complex technology, and affordable. These interventions are in the following areas: Essential newborn care and case management of newborn illness, infant and young child feeding and case management of malnutrition, and the prevention and management of diarrhoea, pneumonia, malaria and HIV infection.

Strengthening the health system and integrating the interventions into packages of care that can be delivered at all levels during pregnancy, childbirth, neonatal period, and childhood—from home to hospital—will be key to increasing the coverage of health interventions. Achievement of the MDG of reducing child mortality will require significant acceleration in investments on child survival.

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