Guest Opinion: In the global health community, pneumonia may hold less weight than malaria or AIDs, but every twenty seconds it takes a child's life.
Tonight, Seattle’s Pacific Science Center arches, along with iconic buildings and landmarks across the country, will be bathed in blue lights. Honoring World Pneumonia Day, these sites are shedding light on the generally preventable and treatable disease that kills more young children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined.
Most people in this country don’t know that pneumonia takes the life of a child every 20 seconds. In the small Mayan community of Rio Pajarito, Guatemala, seven-month-old Marta suffered from a high fever, exhaustion and rapid breathing. After three days of attempting to cure Marta with home remedies, Marta’s grandfather realized that her condition was deteriorating. At 4 a.m, Marta’s grandfather rushed her to a community health worker, who recognized “severe pneumonia,” gave her antibiotics and sent her to the nearest hospital. Marta spent four days in the hospital and is now completely recovered.
While many families haven’t been as lucky as Marta’s, we know how to help others. That’s why we serve as ambassadors for World Pneumonia Day. The Best Shot Foundation and other leading organizations urge Congress and the White House to provide support for global health programs to ensure poor children around the world have access to inexpensive medical interventions — bridging the tenuous gap between life and death for millions.
Because pneumonia is easy to prevent and relatively simple to cure in the U.S., many Americans don’t realize it is often a death sentence for children in poor nations. As it stands now, pneumonia kills more than 1.5 million children every year before their fifth birthdays. Life-saving tools such as vaccines and antibiotics can keep vulnerable kids alive. A modest increase in federal allocation toward children’s global health programs would save hundreds of thousands of children — giving each a shot at a productive live.
We write together today not just as football players, but as part of our abiding commitment to helping children. One of us (Steve) founded the Forever Young Foundation, which serves children facing significant physical, emotional, and financial challenges, while the other (Russell) makes regular visits to young patients at Seattle Children's Hospital.
As we all know, Seattle has a long history of strong leadership and innovation in global health research and funding. Home to the Gates Foundation, PATH, the University of Washington and World Vision, Seattle creates a compassionate community and a community of problem solvers.
What will it take to prevent another child from dying of pneumonia? Public and private funding for global health programs for children, leadership from organizations such as the Best Shot Foundation and the Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia, and a commitment from individuals who join together to make sure this disease is sidelined.
Ambassadors for the Best Shot Foundation and World Pneumonia Day, Russell Wilson plays football for the Seattle Seahawks and Steve Young is a retired quarterback and commentator for ESPN.