Monday, November 14, 2011


Despite of science and medicine offering the tools to solve a major health problem, pneumonia in this case, the problem prevails. Pneumonia is the number one killer of children under five worldwide. Ninety eight percent of the children who die of pneumonia live in developing countries however, we are all susceptible. In the United States and other developed countries, vaccination of children under five and adults 65 years old and older saves many lives. However, many suffer the disease and die from it every year. In 2007, 1.2 million of people in the United States were hospitalized due to pneumonia and more than 52,000 died of this infection. [3]. Pneumonia is caused by bacteria therefore it is susceptible to antibiotics. The bacteria infect the lungs. Symptoms include cough, fever, elevated heart rate, difficulty breathing and whistling sounds, loss of appetite.

I thought it might be interesting to discuss in class how different it is growing up in the USA compared to growing up in a developing country from the health perspective to help understand why despite of having solutions available pneumonia persists. Controlling the spread of infectious diseases is possible but not easy. So far, only smallpox (caused by a virus) has been eradicated. For bacteria or viruses to spread and make many people ill, many things have to happen. The germ has to find enough susceptible or non-immune people, that is people who have not been vaccinated or suffered the disease before. Children are a large proportion of the susceptible population. Combine this with poor sanitary conditions, unbalanced and/or insufficient nutrition, the presence of other diseases at the same time, and other physical and psychological burdens and you have a fertile ground for the spread of infectious diseases. Developed and developing countries have public health problems, but in many areas of developing countries sanitary conditions are poor, proper nutrition is hard to come by, and other conditions favor the spread of infectious diseases. And many children die.

WORLD PNEUMONIA DAY IS NOVEMBER 12 and to help raise awareness on how to prevent this disease Johns Hopkins University students have created a coloring book with a story that simply and clearly shows how to prevent and treat the disease. This is a new way to spread the word about this disease. After a quick search, I did not find other coloring books about pneumonia. By coloring and reading, young readers as well as parents reading to their children will learn that pneumonia is something to take seriously, yet it is nothing to be scared of because it can be prevented and cured. Now, I’d love to see this coloring book in Spanish!

Download the booklet, it’s free, and pass the word if you can. Children can send pages they have colored here and submissions will be featured in an online gallery. Pneumonia is both preventable and curable and simple habits would help save the lives of millions of children. Check the YouTube video below. I thank my colleague Mary Bowman-Kruhm for bringing attention to this book and to World Pneumonia Day.

I invite you to pass the word and help spread awareness. Here are some links with more information in English and in Spanish if you would like to forward them to people who might be interested or find them useful:

1. World Pneumonia Day YouTube video
2. Countdown to World Pneumonia Day
3. World Pneumonia Day is November 12: Center for Disease Control
4. Center for Disease Control in Spanish:La Neumonía se Puede Prevenir
5. La Voz Libre (Spain): SEGÚN UN ESTUDIO PUBLICADO EN 'INTERNATIONAL HEALTH' Las vacunas contra la neumonía en países en desarrollo pueden salvar la vida a cuatro millones de niños en diez años. [According to a study published in ‘International Health’, Pneumonia vaccines in developing countries can save the lives of four million children in ten years.]

It's Nonfiction Monday! Check other blogs at Playing by the Book.


  1. 18 months ago, my then 2 year old was hospitalised with pneumonia and it was terribly frightening. It would be good to see some examples of the colouring in pages.

  2. I can relate because when I was growing up in Venezuela, I caught it too and remember my mom being very worried and making sure I would take all the medication the doctor had prescribed. The book is free to download and print.