Linking malaria programmes to other disease control strategies in Africa could help to halve deaths from malaria by 2010, say researchers in this week's BMJ.
This target was set in 1998 through the Roll Back Malaria initiative, but progress has been slow. Currently, one million people die every year from malaria, mostly in Africa.
David Molyneux and Vinand Nantulya propose a strategy in which the distribution of bed nets is linked to other disease control programmes. This would not only improve access to poor and hard to reach communities, but would potentially save costs.
Such linkages also offer the opportunity to extend other public health benefits, such as improved nutrition and provision of clean water, to hard to reach rural populations, say the authors. Other programmes, based on drug donations, have helped to reduce anaemia and intestinal worms. Such an approach could reduce maternal and child mortality and reduce frequency of malaria fevers.
For example, the distribution of free nets was recently linked to a measles vaccination campaign in remote rural districts of Zambia and Ghana. The campaign achieved the global target for net coverage in one week.
Programmes currently focused on single diseases should now create linkages at national, district, and community level, write the authors. They urge a shift in malaria control strategies to maximise opportunities for bringing improved health to vulnerable communities, which are more proactive than current aproaches.
Journalists are invited to put their questions to the authors at a press briefing on Thursday 6 May, 10.30am, at the Science Media Centre, 21 Albermarle Street, London W1.
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