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Too Many Children Are Still Dying Young Around the World

Originally posted on Scientific Inquirer.

Strong health and social systems must come together to support all children

Preconception, pregnancy, and infant interventions that address child survival and nutrition have a strong influence on weight, height, and development, and serve as key indicators of future health, nutrition, education level, and intelligence quotients – if they are delivered at high level of quality.

However, these interventions must be scaled up and continued through early childhood and adolescence via school-based and community delivery platforms, where children and families can have consistent access to immunisations and screening programmes to address often neglected areas of child health such as anaemia, vision, dental conditions, non-communicable diseases, neglected tropical diseases, and mental health conditions (including anxiety and depression).

Building on this analysis, the Series authors point out that to maximize children’s health, strong health systems need to partner with equally effective social systems such as schools, communities, families, and digital platforms that offer promotive, preventive, and curative services relevant to a child’s life stage.

“Although scaling up high quality health facility-based interventions in children younger than five years will have the greatest effect on reducing child mortality rates, we also have to engage with families to boost children’s development and think beyond the clinic to schools and communities to reach older children whose health needs have been relatively neglected,” says Dr Margaret Kruk from the Harvard Chan School of Public Health, Boston (USA).

The authors also point out the growing challenges older children and adolescents face because of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the lack of social support and the mental health effects such as feelings of isolation, loneliness, and anxiety.

“The COVID-19 pandemic showed us the devastating effects that gaps in care and education can have on children. Health and social systems must be better equipped to work together to address the emerging needs of children and families as part of the effort to rebuild equitable and resilient services,” says Professor Maureen Black from RTI International and the University of Maryland, Baltimore (USA).