Background: Previous estimates of the global burden of disease for children have not included much information from China, leading to a large gap in data. We identified the main causes of deaths in neonates (<1 month), postneonatal infants (1-11 months), and children (<5 years) in China using information that was available to the public. Methods: The Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group in collaboration with colleagues from Peking University systematically searched Chinese databases that were available to the public. Information was obtained from the Chinese Ministry of Health and Bureau of Statistics websites, Chinese National Knowledge Infrastructure database, and Chinese Health Statistics yearbooks for 1990-2008. We also obtained information from 206 high-quality community-based longitudinal studies of different causes of deaths in children (<5 years) that were written in the Chinese language. A statistical model was developed to estimate the total number of deaths in children according to provinces, age groups, and main causes. Findings: During 1990-2008, the mortality rates in neonates, postneonatal infants, and children were reduced by 70% (from 34·0 to 10·2 per 1000 livebirths), 72% (from 53·5 to 14·9 per 1000 livebirths), and 71% (from 64·6 to 18·5 per 1000 livebirths), respectively, meeting the targets set in the Millennium Development Goal 4. The leading causes of deaths in 2008 were pneumonia, birth asphyxia, and preterm birth complications, each accounting for 15-17% of all deaths. Congenital abnormalities and accidents increased in importance during this period, contributing to 11% and 10% of child deaths, respectively. Sudden infant death syndrome contributed to 5% of deaths in children. Interpretation: Publically available Chinese databases contain much important information that has been underused in the estimation of global and regional burden of disease. On the basis of trends, preterm birth complications are expected to become the leading cause of child mortality in China, whereas deaths from congenital abnormalities, accidents, and sudden infant death syndrome are predicted to continue increasing in importance in the long term. Funding: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
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