Article Analyzes Global Health Priority of Diarrheal Diseases

DECEMBER 4, 2012 - A new article by a faculty member at the School of Nursing & Health Studies looks at the changing priority given to diarrheal diseases on the global health agenda.

Jesse Bump, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of international health, served as lead author of the manuscript, which appeared online Nov. 27 in Health Policy and Planning – an Oxford University Press journal published in association with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“The article analyzes the history of the control of diarrheal diseases (CDD) and develops political strategies to promote action against this widespread killer of children,” Bump said. “The article is based on research we conducted for PATH using support from the Gates Foundation. Its findings have been used as part of a political strategy for maximizing the potential of a new vaccine for an important cause of diarrhea.”

'Twin Engines'

The article notes that CDD was at one time an important part of the child survival movement.

“CDD figured prominently as one of the ‘twin engines’ of the child survival movement of the 1980s, but now has a low priority on the global health agenda compared with malaria, tuberculosis (TB) and HIV/AIDS,” the article says.

Still, the authors note, these diseases kill about 1.5 million children each year.

To understand the current climate, they measure the changing priority of the diseases on the global health agenda over time – using several indicators – and then propose strategies for sparking a renewed interest to combat these diseases.

Four Indicators

The four indicators include trends in treatment coverage, changes in perceived priority, changes in financing and institutional involvement, and bibliographic trends.

“Taken in combination, the four indicators of priority strongly suggest that CDD’s priority on the global health agenda has declined significantly since the 1980s,” the authors write.

They also propose three strategies for boosting that priority – framing these diseases as vaccine preventable and focusing on the technology of a new rotavirus vaccine, framing these diseases within a primary health care movement and focusing on the diseases themselves, or framing the diseases within the health systems strengthening movement and focus on their impact on child and family health.

The authors note that in their view options one and three are the most promising.


Co-authors include Michael R. Reich, PhD, and Anne M. Johnson, ScD, JD, both of the Department of Global Health and Population at Harvard School of Public Health.

By Bill Cessato