Drivers of the reduction in childhood diarrhea mortality 1980-2015 and interventions to eliminate preventable diarrhea deaths by 2030.



Childhood diarrhea deaths have declined more than 80% from 1980 to 2015, in spite of an increase in the number of children in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). Possible drivers of this remarkable accomplishment can guide the further reduction of the half million annual child deaths from diarrhea that still occur.


We used the Lives Saved Tool, which models effects on mortality due to changes in coverage of preventive or therapeutic interventions or risk factors, for 50 LMIC to determine the proximal drivers of the diarrhea mortality reduction.


Diarrhea treatment (oral rehydration solution [ORS], zinc, antibiotics for dysentery and management of persistent diarrhea) and use of rotavirus vaccine accounted for 49.7% of the diarrhea mortality reduction from 1980 to 2015. Improvements in nutrition (stunting, wasting, breastfeeding practices, vitamin A) accounted for 38.8% and improvements in water, sanitation and handwashing for 11.5%. The contribution of ORS was greater from 1980 to 2000 (58.0% of the reduction) than from 2000 to 2015 (30.7%); coverage of ORS increased from zero in 1980 to 29.5% in 2000 and more slowly to 44.1% by 2015. To eliminate the remaining childhood diarrhea deaths globally, all these interventions will be needed. Scaling up diarrhea treatment and rotavirus vaccine, to 90% coverage could reduce global child diarrhea mortality by 74.1% from 2015 levels by 2030. Adding improved nutrition could increase that to 89.1%. Finally, adding increased use of improved water sources, sanitation and handwashing could result in a 92.8% reduction from the 2015 level.


Employing the interventions that have resulted in such a large reduction in diarrhea mortality in the last 35 years can virtually eliminate remaining childhood diarrhea deaths by 2030.





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Publication Info

Black, Robert, Olivier Fontaine, Laura Lamberti, Maharaj Bhan, Luis Huicho, Shams El Arifeen, Honorati Masanja, Christa Fischer Walker, et al. (2019). Drivers of the reduction in childhood diarrhea mortality 1980-2015 and interventions to eliminate preventable diarrhea deaths by 2030. Journal of global health, 9(2). p. 020801. 10.7189/jogh.09.020801 Retrieved from

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Michael H. Merson

Wolfgang Joklik Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Global Health

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