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  • Re-think on disease control as burden shifts to teens

    Author: AAP

A third of children dying from infectious diseases are aged over five but global infection control efforts are not targeting older children and teens.

The Murdoch Children's Research Institute found work to improve the mortality and morbidity of young children had been successful, with the infectious disease burden dropping by 10 per cent between 1990 and 2019.

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But 650,000 children and adolescents aged over five died from communicable diseases in 2019, making up one third of total deaths of children.

Professor Peter Azzopardi, deputy director of the institute's centre for adolescent health, said more attention should turn to the five to 24 age group.

"For a long time, we've assumed that older children and adolescents are healthy and they don't necessarily experience the same burden of illness as younger children," he told AAP.

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"This study really shows they are still experiencing an appreciable burden of communicable disease and actually over time, there's been a shift."

Diarrhoea, pneumonia and malaria account for two thirds of infectious diseases and death for those young people aged five to 24.

HIV and tuberculosis were also the leading causes of disease burden among older adolescents.

Prof Azzopardi said the study, published in The Lancet on Wednesday, looked at the ongoing effect of the communicable diseases as well as the number of deaths.

"These diseases also cause a lot of morbidity, so time off from work or from school when you're feeling sick," he said.

"We're actually able to measure years of life lost due to periods of illness."

The latest findings should inform the way data is collected as well as models of care provided to young people, Prof Azzopardi said.

"It has really far-reaching implications for so many different aspects of public and clinical health care," he said.

"We often think about mental health care and preventative interventions to address injuries, but this is really pointing to the fact we also need to think about communicable diseases."

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