The Region has made great strides in reducing child mortality and morbidity, using evidence-based interventions and new knowledge and technology. However, persistent social exclusion, inequalities of gender, class, and ethnicity, and pervasive inequities all have detrimental effects on children’s development and constitute one of the greatest challenges in the Region. Interventions that protect children and promote the maximum realization of their potential can improve cognitive and emotional development and boost educational achievement, which in turn facilitates access to productive employment, greater social mobility, and reduction of inequities in the future. The children of the Region of the Americas are its greatest asset, and the recognition and protection of their distinct needs and human rights are essential for effective development.
- Perinatal conditions and birth defects are the leading causes of death in newborns in the Region of the Americas. Complications of prematurity, birth defects, birth asphyxia and trauma, and sepsis account for more than 40% of newborn deaths.
- Congenital malformations, influenza and pneumonia, and injuries are among the leading causes of death in children aged 1–4 years. The burden of diarrhea, pneumonia, undernutrition, and vaccine-preventable diseases decreased significantly between 2000 and 2015.
- Children and adolescents in the Region face a triple burden of malnutrition: undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, and overweight/obesity.
Increasingly, governments in the Region are recognizing the economic, ethical, and social benefits of investing early in life. Along with the emphasis on reducing preventable infant mortality, a shift is already taking place to a human development perspective. Nineteen countries already have policies or strategies that address early childhood development. However, this momentum needs to be expanded to all countries and to those subgroups that are most in need. The health sector has an important role to play in ensuring access to health services to help children have opportunities to thrive. Women, children, and adolescents are the most powerful agents for improving their own health and achieving prosperous and sustainable societies. Greater efforts are needed to ensure health services become sources of information, support to parents, and linkages to other social resources. Children and adolescents aged 5–14 years have historically been underserved in child and adolescent health program, while this period of life carries the lowest risk of mortality and morbidity, from a life-course perspective it remains important for the continuous building of health.
PAHO/WHO promotes the design of effective and integrated approaches to child health, such as the Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI) Strategy, geared at the care of children between 0-5 years to reduce mortality and morbidity. The IMCI Strategy integrates the best health measures available to promote healthy lifestyles, prevent sickness (through vaccination, proper alimentation, etc.), and detect in a timely manner and effectively treat the most frequent and prevalent illnesses.
To further progress the health of all women, children, and adolescents in the Americas, The Plan of Action for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health 2018-2030 was adopted by Member States proposing an integrated life-course approach to address the common challenges and barriers these populations face, and to build health and well-being over time and across generations.