Childhood diarrhoeal illness may be underestimated in national health surveys

Katie Overbey, Kellogg Schwab and Natalie Exum

For children in low-income countries, diarrhoea remains a major cause of death and can lead to long-term health consequences. Accurate estimates of childhood diarrhoeal illness are crucial to evaluating the success of campaigns to defeat diarrhoea and improve health in countries where the burden of diarrhoea is high.

In our study, recently published in the IJE, we found that caregivers may underestimate diarrhoeal diseases in children aged under 5 years when asked to recall whether the children had diarrhoea in the previous 2 weeks. Compared with a 1-week recall period, there was a consistent underestimation of the prevalence of diarrhoea across five countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

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Take my breath away: India’s crop residue burning affects respiratory health

Suman Chakrabarti, Md Tajuddin Khan and Samuel Scott

Respiratory infections are the most common chronic disease in children globally and a leading cause of death in developing countries. This situation is exacerbated by air pollution.

Air pollution in northern India, mainly New Delhi and the neighbouring states, is exacting a toll on the health of residents, making global headlines and highlighting the severity and extent of this public health disaster in one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

A contributory factor to air pollution in northern India is the harmful practice of crop residue burning — when farmers burn the crop residue to clear fields before sowing a new crop. Although banned by the Indian government in 2015, this practice remains prevalent in many parts of the northern Indian states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

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Hygiene gaps: between access and practice, and from region to region

Jennyfer Wolf, Richard Johnston, Matthew C Freeman and Annette Prüss-Ustün

Handwashing with soap after faecal contact is key to preventing disease and death from enteric infectious diseases. Our study, recently published in the IJE, is the first to provide global, regional and country estimates of handwashing with soap after potential contact with human faeces, based on representative data on access to handwashing facilities collected for monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our results show that handwashing with soap after using the toilet or other potential contact with human faeces is poorly practised worldwide and that even the necessary equipment – handwashing facilities with soap and water – are inaccessible to billions of people.

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What are the long-term health effects of earthquakes? Meta-analysis results and implications for epidemiological practice

Alba Ripoll Gallardo, Barbara Pacelli and Elias Allara

authors

Population growth and urbanisation of seismic areas are leading to a constant increase in the health-related and economic toll of earthquakes. In 2014 alone, 324 natural disasters were reported worldwide, resulting in 141 million casualties and nearly $100 billion in damage. Geophysical disasters, including earthquakes, accounted for about 10% of these events.

Although the impact of earthquakes in the response phase – that is, immediately or shortly after the main seismic event – has been well studied, we have little knowledge of the effects of earthquakes in the medium and long term. This uncertainty may cause inefficient planning of post-earthquake epidemiological surveillance, resulting in potential underestimation of public health needs.

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