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Pioneers of comprehensive paediatric care in the developing world
  1. Osama Hafiz Elshazali
  1. Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, University of Khartoum, Khartoum, Sudan
  1. Correspondence to Dr Osama Hafiz Elshazali, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, University of Khartoum, Khartoum, Sudan; o.elshazali{at}

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The mid-20th century brought about a complete rethink of the causes of and interventions pertaining to child malnutrition. Pioneers included, among others, Zef Ebrahim, Derek and Patrice Jelliffe, and David Werner working in child health globally; David Sanders in Zimbabwe; Maurice King in Zambia; James Paget Stanfield in East Africa; and Mabelle and Raj Arole in India.

This paper describes the lives and legacies of three paediatricians in particular, whose careers coincided and intertwined in sub-Saharan Africa, between the 1930s and 1970s. Their approach, with the other pioneers, helped sculpt the philosophy behind current nutritional rehabilitation, and the effect they had on paediatricians and millions of children, especially in low-income countries, has been long lasting and reverberates to this very day. All three of these iconic figures were guided by the primary, overarching purpose in life to improve the health and well-being of children all over the world, dedicating their lives to research and clinical practice to child care. We, the current generation of paediatricians, stand on the shoulders of giants. We have a duty as medical practitioners to continue the legacy of all the pioneers in social and comprehensive paediatrics.

Cicely D. Williams (1893–1992) was born and educated in Jamaica and graduated in 1923 from Oxford University. The British Colonial Office sent her to the Gold Coast (now Ghana) in 1929. Her primary interests were in maternal and child health, particularly breast feeding, and the development of health services. Williams noted very astutely that while child mortality was high, newborns were less represented compared with children between 2 and 4 years.1 While in Ghana, she saw many young children with swollen …

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  • Funding The author has not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.