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Expert comment - Global child and adolescent health targets in jeopardy without urgent, comprehensive reform

New Lancet Series warns that, despite recent progress, the world is at risk of failing to meet child and adolescent health targets, with more than 8.6 million deaths among children and adolescents recorded in 2019.
Baby being looked after in Malawi under NEST360 alliance. Credit: NEST360

The Series cautions that comprehensive, coordinated care that begins at preconception and lasts through adulthood is urgently needed to reduce childhood mortality and improve child and adolescent health. Professor Joy Lawn, Co-Director of the Centre for Maternal, Adolescent, Reproductive & Child Health (MARCH) at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, comments on these findings.

Professor Lawn said: "As an author, and as Co-Director of LSHTM’s MARCH Centre, this Lancet series is welcomed, underlining the urgency required to meet global goals - only eight years from now, yet still a shocking 8.6 million deaths per year. Progress is at risk given the pandemic.

"This four-paper series has novel angles, bringing together all childhood from age 0 to 19 years. Inclusion of child growth and development as well as survival reflects the aspirations of families and countries. It is especially novel and important to count almost two million stillbirths, babies dying in the last three months of pregnancy. Stillbirths have often been left out, yet count for families, and especially to women, who are frequently stigmatised.
  
"New evidence shows the increasing proportion of burden for babies, with more than 50% of total child deaths being newborns and stillbirths. Investment in a healthy start has the greatest potential for impact, requiring both more focus on women and their healthcare, plus major advances in the care of babies. Each year 30 million vulnerable newborns require hospital care. Although small and sick newborn care is an increasing priority for governments it needs more investment, including innovations for devices and data across Africa."

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