To Overcome Challenges In Africa’s Malaria Response, Focus On Testing, Treatment At Community Level

“Significant investment in malaria research has yielded effective interventions such as insecticide treated nets (ITNs), indoor residual spraying (IRS) and artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) to control the disease, but its burden continues to be felt among the poorest,” George Okello, a research fellow at the Kenya Medical Research Institute, and Nina Cromeyer Dieke, communications manager for the Global Atlas of Helminth Infections based at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, write in an opinion piece in the Guardian’s “Global Development Professionals Network.” “The disease still kills over half a million people a year, the majority of them young African children who are unable to afford or access prevention methods,” they note.

“The key challenge in malaria control in Africa is improving access to effective malaria diagnosis and treatment, which is critical to proper management of the disease and improvement of health outcomes,” Okello and Dieke continue. “Recent advances in research and the introduction of malaria rapid diagnostic test kits (RDTs) offer a perfect opportunity for improved malaria diagnosis at the community level,” they write, noting that community education is essential to effective use of the tests. They continue, “Community-based malaria control through improved diagnosis and treatment will need to be supplemented by other malaria control interventions such as mass distribution of ITNs,” and “[a]lternative channels for improving access to malaria diagnosis and treatment at the community level also need to be explored further” (2/12).