On World Pneumonia Day, Nov 12, 2015, the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) is highlighting the “Decade of the Lung” initiative to prevent pneumonia and strengthen management strategies globally.

Pneumonia is the main cause of death in children under 5 years, of hospitalization and of healthcare utilization, according to FIRS. Almost one million children still die annually from pneumonia, but most deaths are preventable. Most pneumonia and deaths occur in low and middle income countries (LMICs) and in children under 2 years old. More than half of all deaths occur outside a health facility, indicating that limited access to care remains a challenge. Pneumonia can also lead to a decline in general health and to chronic respiratory disease.

FIRS includes the world’s leading international respiratory societies, including the American Thoracic Society (ATS), American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP), Asociación Latinoamericana De Tórax (ALAT), Asia Pacific Society of Respirology (APSR), European Respiratory Society (ERS), International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases (The Union) and the Pan African Thoracic Society (PATS).

In a joint press release, these societies call on governments, healthcare programs, and others to strengthen preventative and management strategies for pneumonia globally by:

  • Strengthening health systems to improve pneumonia case management and enable better access to effective vaccines, especially PCV, and treatment, particularly oxygen and antibiotics
  • Optimizing childhood nutrition by promoting exclusive breastfeeding until 6 months of age and complementary nutritious foods thereafter
  • Promoting initiatives to reduce tobacco smoking and indoor air pollution
  • Improving access to safe drinking water and sanitation
  • Reducing HIV-associated pneumonia through strengthening of prevention of mother to child programs and early use of antiretroviral therapy
  • Increasing funding for research in pneumonia

“We have the tools to prevent and treat childhood pneumonia. But globally there is still lack of access to these for many children. Strengthening preventative and management strategies is a key health priority,” said Heather Zar, MD, president of the Pan African Thoracic Society.