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There is no dispute about the role of health knowledge
in the prevention of diseases and child survival.

Knowledge is what allows us to advance to a better life.

The ability to collect, organize, apply, and pass down knowledge
is one of the key sources of growth in humanity and the global economy.

Knowledge is built incrementally with one person
building upon the work of another.

The more we make this process easy, the faster and further
knowledge will reach and thus benefit all of human kind.

The late James Grant, former director of UNICEF, said back in 1993

"The single biggest piece of unfinished business' of the 20th century [and, indeed, the 21st] is to extend the basic benefits of modern science and medicine ... The most urgent task before us is to get medical and health knowledge to those most in need of that knowledge. Of the approximately 50 million people who were dying each year in the late 1980s, fully two thirds could have been saved through the application of that knowledge."

Health communication using mobile technology in Afghanistan: a scoping study

"The concept of using mobile technology to share accurate and relevant health information is well-received and is seen as both a cost- and time-efficient alternative to visiting a health clinic. This is despite some concerns about how literate people would need to be in order to use these, as well as some worries over the cost implications of such services."

BBC Media Action

Early Evidence: Videos can improve health behaviors

"Videos are a very powerful communication channel for reaching the community with important health information. In particular, videos that have an authority figure in them, such as a doctor in a lab coat, are very convincing while also providing entertainment. Field workers also appreciate these because it reinforces the messages they are giving during counseling sessions."

K4Health in Bangladesh

The more educated a mother, the less likely her child is to die.

This is one of the most powerful relationships in global health and development — a mother's level of education and her child's chance of survival.

Educating Mothers, Saving Children – 4 Sep 2013 – Leith Greenslade, Co-Chair of Child Health, MDG Health Alliance

Actions taken by parents to help sick children are the most significant factors determining differences in child survival.

Charles Kenny, Getting Better: Why Global Development Is Succeeding — And How We Can Improve the World Even More

Actions taken by parents to help sick children are the most significant factors determining differences in child survival.

Between 1970 and 2009, mortality in children under age 5 dropped from 16 million to 7.8 million annually, and IHME researchers estimate that 51% of the reduction can be linked to increased education among women of reproductive age.

The Lancet: Increased educational attainment and its effect on child mortality in 175 countries between 1970 and 2009: a systematic analysis
Rising education levels among women save children's lives worldwide

My people perish for lack of knowledge


Knowledge is the enemy of disease. That is a powerful metaphor.

Applying what we know already will have a bigger impact on health and disease than any drug or technology likely to be introduced in the next decade.

But if disease is to be defeated, in addition to the undeniable need for new knowledge, existing knowledge must be applied in ways that will improve health care, especially in underprivileged populations. There are huge gaps in knowledge application, and a link is needed between knowledge and effective decision-making and health-policy development: appropriate resources are needed to construct such a link. - The Lancet

Mother feeding child oral rehydration solution

A mother is the family’s Chief Health Officer

According to a recent analysis published in The Lancet, half the reduction in child mortality over the past 40 years can be directly attributed to better education for women. If a woman knows better how to care for her child she will demand more, so strengthening her ability to care.

For every one-year increase in the average education of reproductive-age women, a country experienced a 9.5 percent decrease in child deaths.

A mother's education affects her children's health in myriad ways, said Christopher J.L. Murray, a co-author of the study.

According to Murray, better-educated women are more likely to understand disease-prevention measures such as vaccines and mosquito nets and to use them. They are more likely to take a sick child to a clinic early. They more probably understand germ theory and how to set clean water and sanitation as household priorities.

Improving education tends to increase national wealth, which in turn improves population's health. But the new study shows that improving education directly reduces child mortality — and more effectively than increasing gross domestic product.

Mothers are often referred to as the family’s Chief Health Officer, and are increasingly using mobile phones to manage and track their family’s health and wellness information.

A recent study showed that mothers index higher than the general population in most categories when it comes to mobile phone activities, and health was no exception.

One in three mothers used her mobile phone for health purposes, compared to 22% of the general population. Further, the study conveyed that nine out of 10 mothers who own smartphones used the devices to research health conditions.

Women are not only more comfortable with technology than they were a year ago and are embracing mobile phones for a variety of activities, but are also more active than men in using medical and health-related phone applications.

People are dying for lack of knowledge

Lack of basic healthcare knowledge leads to needless death and suffering in developing countries. Most deaths are due to failure to provide life-saving interventions - interventions that are often locally available, but are simply not provided.

"It is tragic that so many children continue to die unnecessarily for want of simple, low-cost interventions that are often locally available. It is even more tragic that many of these children would have been saved if only their mothers, fathers, family caregivers and, indeed, health workers, had basic healthcare knowledge to recognise serious illness requiring urgent, appropriate, life-saving action."

Neil Pakenham-Walsh
- Coordinator, HIFA2015 - Co-Director, Global Healthcare Information Network

The Power of Knowledgeable Parents

Actions taken by parents to help sick children are the most important factors determining cross country differences in child survival

Lowering Child Mortality in Poor Countries: The Power of Knowledgeable Parents
Peter Boone and Zhaoguo Zhan - Published by Centre for Economic Performance, London School of Economics and Political Science

'Why do over 20% of children die in some poor countries, while in others only 2% die? We examine this question using survey data covering 278,000 children in 45 low-income countries.

We find that parents' education and a mother's propensity to seek out modern healthcare are empirically important when explaining child survival, while the prevalence of common diseases, along with infrastructure such as improved water and sanitation, are not.

Using a GINI coefficient we construct for treatment services, we find that public and private health systems are 'equally unequal', that is, both tend to favor children in relatively well-off households, and neither appears superior at improving outcomes in very poor communities. These facts contrast with a common view that a much-expanded public health sector is necessary to reduce child mortality.

Instead, we believe the empirical evidence points to the essential role of parents as advocates for their child's health. If we can provide better health knowledge and general education to parents, a private healthcare sector can arise to meet demand. We provide evidence that this alternative route to low mortality is indeed a reason behind the current success of many countries with low child mortality, including Viet Nam, Indonesia, Egypt, and the Indian state of Kerala. Finally, we calculate a realistic package of interventions that target education, health knowledge and treatment seeking could reduce child mortality by 32%.'

8 May, 2015


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