The literature focuses on mortality among children younger than 5 years. Comparable information on nonfatal health outcomes among these children and the fatal and nonfatal burden of diseases and injuries among older children and adolescents is scarce.
To determine levels and trends in the fatal and nonfatal burden of diseases and injuries among younger children (aged <5 years), older children (aged 5-9 years), and adolescents (aged 10-19 years) between 1990 and 2013 in 188 countries from the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) 2013 study.
Data from vital registration, verbal autopsy studies, maternal and child death surveillance, and other sources covering 14,244 site-years (i.e., years of cause of death data by geography) from 1980 through 2013 were used to estimate cause-specific mortality. Data from 35,620 epidemiological sources were used to estimate the prevalence of the diseases and sequelae in the GBD 2013 study. Cause-specific mortality for most causes was estimated using the Cause of Death Ensemble Model strategy. For some infectious diseases (e.g., HIV infection/AIDS, measles, hepatitis B) where the disease process is complex or the cause of death data were insufficient or unavailable, we used natural history models. For most nonfatal health outcomes, DisMod-MR 2.0, a Bayesian metaregression tool, was used to meta-analyze the epidemiological data to generate prevalence estimates.
Of the 7.7 (95% uncertainty interval [UI], 7.4-8.1) million deaths among children and adolescents globally in 2013, 6.28 million occurred among younger children, 0.48 million among older children, and 0.97 million among adolescents. In 2013, the leading causes of death were lower respiratory tract infections among younger children (905,059 deaths; 95% UI, 810,304-998,125), diarrheal diseases among older children (38,325 deaths; 95% UI, 30,365-47,678), and road injuries among adolescents (115,186 deaths; 95% UI, 105,185-124,870). Iron deficiency anemia was the leading cause of years lived with disability among children and adolescents, affecting 619 (95% UI, 618-621) million in 2013. Large between-country variations exist in mortality from leading causes among children and adolescents. Countries with rapid declines in all-cause mortality between 1990 and 2013 also experienced large declines in most leading causes of death, whereas countries with the slowest declines had stagnant or increasing trends in the leading causes of death. In 2013, Nigeria had a 12% global share of deaths from lower respiratory tract infections and a 38% global share of deaths from malaria. India had 33% of the world’s deaths from neonatal encephalopathy. Half of the world’s diarrheal deaths among children and adolescents occurred in just 5 countries: India, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Ethiopia.
Conclusions and Relevance
Understanding the levels and trends of the leading causes of death and disability among children and adolescents is critical to guide investment and inform policies. Monitoring these trends over time is also key to understanding where interventions are having an impact. Proven interventions exist to prevent or treat the leading causes of unnecessary death and disability among children and adolescents. The findings presented here show that these are underused and give guidance to policy makers in countries where more attention is needed.
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