Get Creative About Building Awareness

Get Creative About Building Awareness

by Lois Privor-Dumm

A few years ago, we were thinking about how do you get people to recognize that pneumonia is a problem in children? The answer is, we don’t have to figure it out – give people the simple facts and they will amplify the message. This week, I have seen so many innovative ways that individuals and organizations are getting the word out and showing they care about solving this very solvable problem of pneumonia: from the health departments, students and other interested people all over the Philippines creating their own song and building it up with a dance contest; the children’s fashion show and boat regatta in Nigeria; the virtual Baby Shower For Good sponsored by the Baby Center, UN Foundation’s Shot@Life Campaign, Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, and ABC news; GAVI Alliance’s blog carnival to highlight the progress in the rollout of pneumococcal vaccines as part of the fight against pneumonia.  It’s all working towards the same goal to build awareness and support for solutions to child pneumonia.

My personal favorites were two simple things that I gave to my 3-year old niece – a plushy blue and pink lung pillow and coloring book. She loved it and her mother wanted to learn more about what I was working on. Pneumonia has been a problem for so long that many seem to forget about it. In the US, it is rare that you hear about a baby dying of pneumonia. Mainly because they generally are not malnourished (although this is still a problem in some areas), get their immunizations against the major causes of pneumonia including pertussis, measles, Hib and pneumococcus. And even if they do fall ill, they generally have good access to care.

This, unfortunately, is not the case in the developing world where the vast majority of the 1.5 million pneumonia-related deaths are seen every year. New reports on clean cookstoves, the impact of lady health workers and the adoption of pneumococcal vaccines in developing countries show that cost-effective solutions can be promising, but as IVAC’s new Pneumonia Progress Report points out, there is still a way to go. Adoption of pneumococcal vaccines is increasing rapidly, but children in the largest countries including India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo and Pakistan are still not there. Access to care is still a concern, as is nutrition, in nearly all developing countries.

There is much that we can do and it starts with talking about those simple, compelling facts. Having these conversations and all of the fun events help to elevate awareness to a new level. We need to let our political leaders know that global childhood pneumonia is a concern. Visit the World Pneumonia Day website today and find what you can do and tell your friends, family and colleagues. We have the solutions. There is no reason why we can’t beat this disease.

Lois Privor-Dumm is the Director of Alliances & Information at the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC) at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health