Health

7 medical advancements that saved children's lives

By Sandee LaMotte, CNN

Updated 2:59 PM ET, Fri August 18, 2017
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Familiar with the Back to Sleep campaign to eliminate sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS, one of the leading causes of infant death? Called Safe to Sleep today, it urges parents to put babies to sleep on their backs, never on the stomach, until age 1. Since the start of the campaign in 1994, SIDS rates have dropped by half, which is why it was chosen by the American Academy of Pediatrics as one of the most important achievements in children's health in the past 40 years. Jennie Woodcock/Reflections Photo library/Getty Images
Routine vaccinations are life-saving for many children. Just look at polio, which once killed or disabled thousands, and which has now been eradicated in the United States due to vaccination efforts. Before vaccines were developed, for example, rotavirus killed about 450,000 children worldwide each year. In the United States, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) took the lives of 1,200 annually. Shutterstock
The most common childhood cancer in the United States today is acute lymphocytic leukemia, striking nearly 3,000 children a year. In 1975, it was a death sentence, but after years of research new medication combos, today 90% of newly diagnosed children are expected to live five years or more. KATERYNA KON/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Getty Images
The main cause of death for newborns around the world, says the American Academy of Pediatrics, is being born premature. About 450,000 babies a year, or one in nine, are born prematurely in the US alone. Adding a surfactant, or lubricant, to the lungs of a newborn helps them breathe. After it was implemented in 1985, preemie deaths from respiratory distress syndrome dropped by 41% over the next six years. Eddie Lawrence/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images
In pregnancy, HIV can be transmitted from mother to baby by blood during pregnancy, via vaginal secretions during childbirth, and during breastfeeding after birth. The rate of transmission used to be as high as 40%, but after research discovered an anti-retroviral medication called Zidovudine, the rate decreased by two-thirds. Shutterstock
In sickle cell anemia, an inherited disorder, red blood cells become hard, sticky and form a C-shaped "sickle." Those sickle cells die early, which causes a constant shortage of red blood cells, extreme pain, infection and often, strokes. In 1975, a child with sickle cell disease would likely die by age 14, but medical advances have increased the current life expectancy to age 40. Janice Haney Carr/CDC
One in three children who die in auto accidents aren't protected by seat belts or car seats, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Since the implementation of laws and national awareness campaigns such as Click It or Ticket, deaths have plummeted. In children younger than a year, for example, the proper use of car seats has reduced deaths by 71%. Shutterstock