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WORLD HEALTH FORUM. 1998; 19(2):162-73.In 1796, English country doctor Edward Jenner demonstrated that scratching cowpox virus onto the skin produced immunity against smallpox. Following this scientific demonstration, the practice of vaccination gradually became widespread during the 19th century, and began to be applied to other infections. However, the use of vaccines was largely confined to the industrialized countries. Immunization played no significant role in the World Health Organization's (WHO) early activities. In 1974, however, WHO launched its Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) with the goal of immunizing all of the world's children against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, measles, poliomyelitis, and tuberculosis. At that time, only less than 5% of all children had been immunized against the diseases. The word "expanded" referred to the addition of measles and poliomyelitis to the vaccines then being used in the immunization program. Now, 80% of the world's children receive such protection against childhood diseases during their first year of life, coverage could reach 90% by 2000, vaccines are becoming more effective, and vaccines against additional diseases are being added to the program.
WORLD HEALTH FORUM. 1998; 19(2):174-81.Until the late 1960s, health professionals most often recommended that people with diarrheal disease take antidiarrheal drugs and refrain from eating for at least 24 hours. At the same time, work was underway on the development of oral rehydration therapy (ORT), which was subsequently adopted in 1971 to complement the limited supply of intravenous treatment for thousands of patients in West Bengal. The success of ORT in treating diarrheal disease led to the establishment of the World Health Organization's (WHO) Program for the Control of Diarrheal Diseases in 1980, and the subsequent broader access to packets of oral rehydration salts in health facilities. WHO was also involved in efforts to control acute respiratory infections, establishing the Acute Respiratory Infections Program to validate the use of clinical signs for diagnosis and evaluate the impact of the approach. Since WHO's maintenance of these two parallel single-disease programs resulted in some duplication of effort, they were merged in 1990 to form the Division of Diarrheal and Acute Respiratory Disease Control. The division's mandate was later modified and expanded in 1996 in the creation of the Division of Child Health and Development responsible for the control of diarrheal diseases, acute respiratory infections, and other childhood killers like measles, malaria, and malnutrition.