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Diarrhea Remains Second Leading Cause Of Death Among Children, Despite Effective Interventions

Despite the introduction of new treatments for diarrhea more than four years ago, few children in developing countries are receiving these interventions and the disease is still the second leading cause of death among children, according a Bulletin of the World Health Organization report, BMJ reports.

In 2004, the WHO and UNICEF recommended the use of a new formulation of oral rehydration salts that “reduces the need for intravenous fluids and shortens the duration of the episode,” and zinc supplements to “reduce the duration and severity of the episode and decrease the chances of new episodes in the 2-3 months after treatment,” BMJ writes. Since the recommendation, 29 countries have “begun to explore the possibility of introducing” the new rehydration therapy and zinc “through formative research or pilot programmes,” and “only 53 countries have zinc treatment available in either the private or public sectors,” the report says, BMJ reports  (Dobson, 8/18).

The authors of the WHO report write that “community-based diarrhoea management should be a top global health priority” because the available treatments are “safe, effective and inexpensive.” Additonally, in order to meet the U.N. Millennium Development Goal of reducing child mortality by two-thirds by 2015, “greater attention must be given to reducing diarrhoea morbidity and mortality,” according to the report (Walker et al., 8/14).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.