The global burden of respiratory disease - Impact on child health

Heather J. Zar, Thomas W. Ferkol

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

206 Scopus citations


Respiratory disease is the major cause of mortality and morbidity worldwide, with infants and young children especially susceptible. The spectrum of disease ranges from acute infections to chronic non-communicable diseases. Five respiratory conditions dominate - acute respiratory infections, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, tuberculosis (TB), and lung cancer. Pneumonia remains the predominant cause of childhood mortality, causing nearly 1.3 million deaths each year, most of which are preventable. Asthma is the commonest non-communicable disease in children. Pediatric TB constitutes up to 20% of the TB caseload in high incidence countries. Environmental exposures such as tobacco smoke, indoor air pollution, and poor nutrition are common risk factors for acute and chronic respiratory diseases. Pediatric and adult respiratory disease is closely linked. Early childhood respiratory infection or environmental exposures may lead to chronic disease in adulthood. Childhood immunization can effectively reduce the incidence and severity of childhood pneumonia; childhood immunization is also effective for reducing pneumonia in the elderly. The Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS), representing the major respiratory societies worldwide, has produced a global roadmap of respiratory diseases, Respiratory Disease in the World: Realities of Today - Opportunities for Tomorrow. This highlights the burden of respiratory diseases globally and contains specific recommendations for effective strategies. Greater availability and upscaled implementation of effective strategies for prevention and management of respiratory diseases is needed worldwide to improve global health and diminish the current inequities in health care worldwide.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)430-434
Number of pages5
JournalPediatric Pulmonology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2014


  • International health
  • asthma
  • child
  • pneumonia
  • tuberculosis


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