News Release

Thursday, November 10, 2011

NIH statement on World Pneumonia Day

Alan E. Guttmacher, M.D., Director, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

November 12 is World Pneumonia Day, a day set aside to raise public awareness of the millions of childhood deaths that pneumonia causes each year and to encourage efforts to prevent and treat this deadly disease. Pneumonia is an infection occurring in one or both lungs, caused by any number of infectious organisms, such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi. According to the World Health Organization , pneumonia is the leading cause of death in children under the age of 5. Pneumonia kills almost 1.6 million children each year , more than AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined. Childhood pneumonia remains a serious health risk but is less widespread in the United States and other developed countries.

On this World Pneumonia Day , it is important to keep in mind that a major impediment stands in the way of global efforts to prevent childhood pneumonia. In many countries, inefficient, smoky, indoor stoves fueled by wood, charcoal, dung, or coal, are used widely for cooking and heating. The smoke from these indoor fires is a major contributor to childhood pneumonia in much of the world, undermining the vaccination drives and other public health efforts seeking to prevent and treat the disease.

Fortunately, international efforts to replace these inefficient stoves with inexpensive, clean alternatives are now under way. The United Nations Foundation has launched the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves , which seeks to create a global market and manufacturing capability for clean and efficient cookstoves and fuels in the developing world. The NIH's role is to support the research that will determine the most efficient, cost effective solutions for this global problem, to safe guard human health.

About the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD): The NICHD sponsors research on development, before and after birth; maternal, child, and family health; reproductive biology and population issues; and medical rehabilitation. For more information, visit the Institute’s Web site at

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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