Education And Debate

Improving child health: the role of research

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: (Published 15 June 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:1444
  1. F Dabis (, chair of working group

    Working Group on Women and Child Health

  2. J Orne-Gliemann, scientific secretary of working groupa,
  3. F Perez, member of working groupa,
  4. V Leroy, member of working groupa,
  5. M L Newell, co-chair of working groupb,
  6. A Coutsoudis, member of working groupc,
  7. H Coovadia, member of working groupc
  1. a Institut de Santé Publique, d'Epidémiologie et de Développement (ISPED), Case 11, Université Victor Segalen-Bordeaux 2, 33076 Bordeaux Cedex, France
  2. b Centre for Paediatric Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Institute of Child Health, London WC1N 3JH
  3. c Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, University of Natal, Durban, South Africa
  1. Correspondence to: F Dabis

    Child health has improved greatly in the past decade, thanks to research that has quantified health problems and identified strategies for improving child health. The Working Group on Women and Child Health reviews the major advances in this field in developing countries since 1990 and argues that research is fundamental to further improvements in child health

    Child mortality (before age 5 years) has shown a relative decrease of 15% since 1990 but remains above 100 per 1000 live births in more than 40 countries.1 The risk of death can be reduced through evidence based interventions such as immunisation and oral rehydration treatment. Research has helped to quantify child health problems, identified strategies to improve health, and shown the effectiveness of interventions. In preparation for the forthcoming United Nations special session on children, we review the major advances in child health in developing countries since 1990 and illustrate the role of research in this progress.

    Summary points

    Child health has improved markedly over the past 10 years

    In many developing countries, mortality among children under 5 remains above 100 deaths per 1000 live births; most of these deaths are preventable

    Reduction of childhood morbidity and mortality remains a public health priority worldwide

    Investing in survival of children is an essential element of national development

    Research is fundamental to further improvements in child health

    Without continued and increased research investment, further advances to improve the health of the world's children are put at risk


    We reviewed the literature published between January 1990 and June 2001 to document progress of and challenges in child health research since the previous UN session for children in 1990. The Medline search strategy was based on the combination (Boolean operator AND) of “child” and “developing countries” and the following keywords: breastfeeding, …

    View Full Text

    Log in

    Log in through your institution


    * For online subscription