Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT) for Diarrhea
The burden of diarrheal diseases among Native American children was comparable to that of children in developing countries. In early 1980s, working with the White Mountain Apache Tribe, Mathuram Santosham, MD, MPH, introduced Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT), a simple electrolyte solution now commonly known as “Pedialyte®,” to prevent diarrhea-associated hospitalizations and deaths. Using home-based interventions, Native outreach workers trained parents in the proper use of ORT. Since the introduction of ORT, rates of diarrheal deaths among the participating tribes (Apache and Navajo) dropped virtually to zero.
Elimination of Hib meningitis
A hallmark study undertaken by the Center in the early 1990s demonstrated the efficacy of a vaccine against Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) – a bacterium that causes life-threatening pneumonia and meningitis in infants and children. Routine immunization of Navajo and Apache infants with Hib vaccine has led to the near elimination of this disease in these communities. Hib vaccine is now being promoted for inclusion in childhood immunization programs worldwide.
Prevention of Pneumococcal disease
A large-scale vaccine trial in the late 1990s marked the advent of a highly effective prevention tool for Streptococcus pneumoniae, a bacterial pathogen and leading cause of pneumonia, meningitis and middle ear infections. Routine, community-wide use of pneumococcal vaccine for children has had a dramatic impact on the epidemiology of pneumococcal disease.
New strategies for RSV disease prevention
Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a major cause of the estimated 1.7 million childhood deaths due to pneumonia every year. Rates of RSV-associated hospitalization among Navajo and Apache infants are three times the national average. Since 2004, we have been conducting a large-scale field trial in Native communities to evaluate a new strategy for the prevention of RSV disease among infants and young children.