Shining a light on childhood respiratory health

The greatest burden of any disadvantage always falls heaviest on the weakest and most vulnerable who cannot raise their voices themselves

By Monika Gappa

Monika Gappa is the President of the European Respiratory Society

19 Feb 2024

Respiratory diseases pose a significant global health challenge, as a leading cause of both mortality and morbidity worldwide. Infants and young children are particularly vulnerable, with pneumonia ranking as the primary infectious cause of death among children globally.1 Additionally, asthma, a prevalent noncommunicable disease affecting both children and adults, stands as the most common chronic disease among children.2 The economic fallout from the pandemic has exacerbated poverty and inequality, potentially escalating malnutrition rates among children, consequently heightening the risk of paediatric tuberculosis (TB).3 Common risk factors for acute and chronic respiratory illnesses encompass environmental exposures such as tobacco smoke, indoor air pollution, and inadequate nutrition. Furthermore, there is a strong correlation between paediatric and adult respiratory diseases, where early childhood respiratory infections or environmental exposures can lead to chronic adult illnesses.4

The EU has a very important role in addressing what is essentially a cross border challenge whether it is via increasing access, affordability and availability of childhood respiratory medicines via the revised pharmaceutical legislation. Whether it is via tackling chronic respiratory diseases through Healthier Together Initiative and the EU4Health programme, whether it is via boosting European Reference Networks (ERNs) and the rare diseases strategy, or whether it is via actions to tackle climate change, air pollution and tobacco, we still do not have cures for many childhood respiratory illnesses and, given the massive and increasing burden, we need research, research, research and this needs to be reflected in Horizon Framework Programmes.  

The European Respiratory Society is organising an event on Childhood Respiratory Health focused on five key pillars: 

  1. Importance of Respiratory Health in Early Childhood for Life-long lung health  

  2. Impact of Inequalities on Respiratory Health  

  3. Challenges in Availability and Accessibility of Medicines  

  4. Urgent Need for Collaborative Actions  

  5. The Role of Awareness and Research 

Join us at our upcoming event to learn about the existing gaps in childhood lung health. 
When: 5th March 2024 (12:00-14:00 CET) 
Where: European Parliament, Room ASP 3H1 

Register here.


1. WHO, Pneumonia in children, fact sheet, 11 November 2022 Pneumonia in children (
2. WHO, dsthma, Key facts, 4 May 2023 dsthma (
3. Carvalho d., Kritski d., What is the global burden of tuberculiosis among children?, the Lancet Global Health, February 2022 What is the global burden of tuberculosis among children? - The Lancet Global Health
4. Zar HJ, Ferkol TW. The global burden of respiratory disease-impact on child health. Pediatr Pulmonol. 2014 May;49(5):430-4. doi: 10.1002/ppul.23030. Epub 2014 Mar 9. PMID: 24610581. The global burden of respiratory disease-impact on child health - PubMed (

In partnership with


This article was produced in partnership with the European Respiratory Society.