World Pneumonia Day 12 November 2018


We must do more to prevent and treat pneumonia, says international respiratory group



In support of World Pneumonia Day, 12 November, the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) calls for renewed efforts to prevent and treat pneumonia.


Pneumonia is one of the most preventable and treatable illnesses in global health and yet every minute, 2 children die from this illness. Most (99 percent) deaths occur in low or middle-income countries. Pneumonia in early childhood may also increase the likelihood of developing a chronic lung disease such as asthma or chronic obstructive respiratory disease (COPD) in adulthood.


Pneumonia is also a common cause of death or illness in the elderly, being the single most common cause of death from infectious disease in this group.

World Pneumonia Day brings people from all over the world together, to demand that efforts are strengthened to fight pneumonia, which is largely preventable and treatable.


Pneumonia is commonly caused by different germs that may be bacteria or viruses. Vaccines are available to protect children from some of the common germs and these can prevent pneumonia.


Exclusive breastfeeding for the first 4 to 6 months of life, adequate complementary feeding and good nutrition can also help to prevent pneumonia. Avoiding cigarette smoke exposure or indoor air pollution, especially during pregnancy and the early childhood years, is important to reduce the risk of pneumonia and severe illness.  Reducing HIV infection and early use of antiretroviral therapy and antibiotics are effective to prevent pneumonia in HIV-infected children and adults.

To treat pneumonia, case management guidelines that include indications for hospital referral and the use of antibiotics are effective. Oxygen is life-saving for those with severe disease.


Unfortunately, children are still dying from pneumonia because they are denied the benefits of prevention, accurate diagnosis and treatment. 170 million children in low and middle-income countries are not vaccinated against pneumonia. Globally, only 35 percent of eligible children get the required three doses of pneumococcal vaccine. Around 40 million episodes of pneumonia go untreated each year. Almost 880,000 children under 5 years of age still die each year from pneumonia. In sub-Saharan Africa, less than half of children with symptoms are taken to a health care provider.



To reduce pneumonia cases and deaths we need to:

  • Raise awareness about pneumonia, the leading killer of young children.
  • Strengthen and sustain interventions to prevent and treat pneumonia.
  • Increase access to available, effective interventions.
  • Conduct research to develop innovative strategies to reduce the burden of pneumonia.


No child should die from pneumonia. No family should suffer the distress associated with a pneumonia death.


FIRS calls upon governments, health care providers, researchers, funders and families to ensure:

  1. Improved and sustained access to effective interventions that prevent and treat pneumonia.
  2. Strengthen health systems that promptly and effectively deliver strategies to reduce pneumonia deaths, including provision of effective antibiotics and oxygen delivery systems.
  3. Increase support for strategies to prevent pneumonia including prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission, provision of anti-retroviral therapy for HIV-infected children, reduction of exposure to tobacco and air pollution, and increasing access to safe drinking water and sanitation.
  4. Support research towards innovative diagnostic, prevention and treatment strategies.


About the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS)

The Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) is an organisation comprised of the world's leading international respiratory societies working together to improve lung health globally: American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST), American Thoracic Society (ATS), Asian Pacific Society of Respirology (APSR), Asociacion Latino Americana De Torax (ALAT), European Respiratory Society (ERS), International UnionAgainst Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases (The Union), Pan African Thoracic Society (PATS), Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA), and the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD). The goal of FIRS is to unify and enhance efforts to improve lung health through the combined work of its more than 70,000 members globally.