Public health interventions and infectious diseases amongst children in low- and middle-income countries: overview of reviews

Added February 23, 2022

Citation: Besnier E, Thomson K, Stonkute D, et al. Which public health interventions are effective in reducing morbidity, mortality and health inequalities from infectious diseases amongst children in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs): An umbrella review. PloS ONE. 2021;16(6):e0251905.

Language: Abstract available in EN. Full text available in EN.

Free to view: Yes.

Funding sources: The contributions of two authors were supported by the Norwegian Research Council BEDREHELSE work program.

What is this? There has been significant progress on preventing infectious diseases worldwide. However, these are still a threat to child health in low- and middle- income countries (LMICs), making it important to identify the effects of public health intervention.

In this overview of reviews, the authors searched for systematic reviews or evidence syntheses which examined public health interventions that might reduce morbidity, mortality or health inequalities due to infectious diseases for children (<5 years) in LMICs. They did not restrict their searches by language and searched for studies published between January 2014 and January 2021.  They included 60 systematic reviews that had included a total of 453 studies.

What was found: Effective interventions for improving child health across the whole population, as well as for the most disadvantaged, include communication, education and social mobilization for specific preventive services or tools, such as immunization or bed nets.

For other interventions, the effects were unclear, unknown or detrimental, either at the overall population level or regarding health inequalities.

Few reviews reported information on health inequalities and the quality of the evidence base was generally low.

Implications: The authors of this review state that the information they gathered can be used to inform decision making about research and research funding. They also state that this overview of reviews could help guide practitioners and policy makers towards the implementation and use of interventions with proven effectiveness and to identify interventions that require further adaption or experimentation.

Other considerations: The authors of this overview discuss their findings in the context of health-related vulnerabilities or higher needs (such as areas with low service coverage, HIV affected families and disease-endemic areas), place of residence (in particular, the rural/urban divide), and the children’s age group, socio-economic status, parental education and race.


This summary was prepared by Joly Ghanawi, edited by Sydney Johnson and finalized by Mike Clarke.

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