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Hoe autopsies kinderlevens kunnen redden

SEATTLE – In een tijdperk waarin data ruimer voorhanden en toegankelijker zijn dan ooit tevoren, zijn we eraan gewend geraakt onze beslissingen te baseren op zoveel bewijsmateriaal als we maar kunnen verzamelen. Hoe belangrijker de beslissing, des te grager we willen kunnen garanderen dat ons onderzoek grondig is geweest en onze informatie nauwkeurig is.

En toch, als het aankomt op wat aantoonbaar een van de belangrijkste beslissingen is waar we vandaag de dag voor staan, hebben we heel weinig data. Als onderdeel van de Sustainable Development Goals (Duurzame Ontwikkelingsdoelstellingen), zoals die afgelopen september zijn aangenomen door de Verenigde Naties, heeft de internationale gemeenschap beloofd de vermijdbare sterfgevallen van kinderen onder de leeftijd van vijf tegen 1930 uit de wereld te bannen. En toch ontberen we juist in de gebieden met de hoogste sterftecijfers de meest fundamentele informatie over de redenen waarom kinderen sterven. We weten dat infectieziekten de meeste sterfgevallen veroorzaken, maar we weten niet welke. Als het erop aankomt te beslissen hoe we onze middelen het beste kunnen besteden, vliegen we in feite als blinden rond.

Sinds 1990 hebben we de kindersterfte wereldwijd gehalveerd; maar bijna zes miljoen kinderen van onder de vijf overlijden nog steeds door vermijdbare oorzaken. Vier van de vijf sterfgevallen onder kinderen doen zich voor in het ten zuiden van de Sahara gelegen deel van Afrika of in Zuid-Azië, regio's waar weinig artsen zijn en nog minder pathologen. Standaard medische onderzoeken naar doodsoorzaken zijn zeldzaam. In veel gevallen is er helemaal geen sprake van een officiële overlijdensakte.

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