Can an innovative wallpaper-like liner help reduce the number of cases of malaria, and if so, will it be cost effective? Donald S. Shepard, a professor at the Schneider Institutes for Health Policy at the Heller School wants to know. And he has gotten the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help. A grant, totaling nearly $500,000 over the next three years, will allow Shepard and collaborators to pursue their research in Kenya and Tanzania.
Shepard's four-person team includes Elizabeth Glaser, a doctoral student at Heller, Sareh Khoshi (M.S. '10), who will gather information in the US, and Aggrey Kihombo (Ph.D. '04), an expert in economic analysis in healthcare and faculty member at Mzumbe University in Tanzania. Kihombo is a former student of Shepard's.
"The research builds on a study that was launched a few years ago by the Centers for Disease Control in collaboration with the Kenya Medical Research Institute to measure the effectiveness of the wallpaper-like liner technology," says Shepard. "The material releases insecticides over several years. It has been found to be quite efficacious, and the economics of it are where we come in."
Recent data from results in Kenya found that the insecticide-treated wall liners cut malaria infections by 38 percent. To fully understand the benefits, Shepard and his team will be calculating additional outcomes, such as exploring the impact of childhood learning in the area school system. They will head to Africa in mid-February for two weeks.
According to the World Health Organization's Roll Back Malaria program, malaria kills 800,000 people in Africa each year-91 percent of all malarial deaths worldwide.
Shepard estimates that the new technology could prevent as many as 300,000 deaths annually.