The evolution of child health programmes in developing countries: From targeting diseases to targeting people

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Bulletin of the World Health Organization






Child health services, trends; Child welfare; Communicable diseases, prevention and control; Delivery of health care; Infant mortality, trends; Models, theoretical


Mortality rates among children and the absolute number of children dying annually in developing countries have declined considerably over the past few decades. However, the gains made have not been distributed evenly: childhood mortality remains higher among poorer people and the gap between rich and poor has grown. Several poor countries, and some poorer regions within countries, have experienced a levelling off of or even an increase in childhood mortality over the past few years. Until now, two types of programmes - short-term, disease-specific initiatives and more general programmes of primary health care - have contributed to the decline in mortality. Both types of programme can contribute substantially to the strengthening of health systems and in enabling households and communities to improve their health care. In order for them to do so, and in order to complete the unfinished agenda of improving child health globally, new strategies are needed. On the one hand, greater emphasis should be placed on promoting those household behaviours that are not dependent on the performance of health systems. On the other hand, more attention should be paid to interventions that affect health at other stages of the life cycle while efforts that have been made to develop interventions that can be used during childhood continue.

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