Health Team

Study: clearer focus of aid in third world countries can save lives

A new study is the first to measure the impact that pollution and poor nutrition play in the deaths of million of children of developing countries. Researchers say improvements in certain areas could save many lives.

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In poor, developing nations, growing up healthy is a challenge. A new study says a focus on a few specific issues could dramatically reduce childhood deaths.

"One of the best ways to save children's deaths is actually dealing with things that happen in their household, their environment and their nutrition, above and beyond health care," said Majid Ezzati, of the Harvard School of Public Health.

School of Public Health researchers studied data on how children live and die in places like sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America. The results are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"I don't think it's a surprise to people that you can save children's lives by giving them a cleaner environment or better nutrition," Ezzati said.

The study says the real surprise is how many lives can be saved by providing clean water, proper waste disposal and clean-burning cooking fuel,  along with encouraging breastfeeding and a more balanced diet. If aimed at the poorest of the poor, the study suggests those measures could prevent a quarter of the world's child deaths.

Ezzati said there's a lot of aid going to poor countries, but he recommends changing the focus of that aid.

"What we are asking in this is not necessarily more resources for this, but better packaging of those resources and better delivery of it and better monitoring and evaluation of who is receiving them," he siad.

In the study, researchers analyzed survey data from 42 developing countries as well as data from the World Health Organization and other existing studies.


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