Many countries have made great strides in reducing child mortality. The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) 2013 update found that child death rates dropped by 48% globally between 1990 and 2013. Yet, every year millions of children still die before their fifth birthday. View these trends using our Life Expectancy & Probability of Death data visualization.
By the time a child reaches the age of 5 years, the probability of death decreases dramatically. This age is therefore commonly used as a cutoff point for measuring child health outcomes. In much of IHME’s work, “child health” applies to children from birth to age 5.
Improving child health starts during pregnancy with adequate nutrition, prenatal care, and prevention of infectious diseases. Babies delivered in a health facility and with a skilled birth attendant have a greater chance of surviving. Feeding babies only breast milk for the first six months of life also makes children healthier. Children are at greatest risk during the first year of life, when about 75% of deaths occur; more than 40% of child deaths occur within the first 28 days of life.
Among children under 5, the leading causes of death are pneumonia, diarrhea, measles, malaria, and malnutrition. Many simple and cost-effective prevention and treatment options exist, but these may not be available to the children who need them most. IHME projects such as the Salud Mesoamérica Initiative evaluation and the Access, Bottlenecks, Costs, and Equity project strive to understand gaps in intervention coverage and delivery of effective health services.
Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG4), set in 2000, challenged countries to reduce child mortality by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015. GBD research has shown accelerated declines in child mortality since that time, although some countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, continue to fall behind. Meanwhile, donor spending has risen, indicating an increased commitment to child health. With continued investment in research, health systems, and interventions that target the populations with the greatest need, the proposed goal of zero preventable child deaths by 2030 may become a reality.