The APMEN Community Engagement for Malaria Elimination Workshop today provided the ten participating countries opportunities to share and learn from each other. One approach was a round table session or World CafÃ© where visitors to each country table could learn about innovative strategies for community engagement and offer suggestions and ideas.Â The second format was an exhibition where countries presented materials they had developed for BCC, training and program management.
Below are some of the lessons learned which were posted, discussed and sorted after the roundtable session. Some of these lessons are general for community engagement while others are especially relevant to the malaria elimination phase.
Countries found that interest malaria may wane in the community as experience fewer and fewer cases.Â Therefore it was suggested that malaria activities be fully integrated into other community level disease control activities so the community will not â€˜forgetâ€™ malaria.Â Funding may also wane, and community engagement can be the basis for advocacy efforts to also keep health systems engaged in malaria work. Another aspect of integration is the need for community case management capacity for treating other febrile illnesses since the community will perceive and still be concerned about â€˜feverâ€™ even in the absence of malaria.
A lesson of general value include the need to build on community achievements. Communities have their own participation â€˜cultureâ€™. Therefore communities have their own mechanisms for solving problems, and these can be used as a foundation to address new issues like malaria elimination. Ultimately we need to look toward the community for innovative ways to tackle the problem of malaria elimination on their own terms.Â Another aspect of the participatory culture in a community may be seasonality based on the variying demands on community membersâ€™ time at different times of the year.
We will present some of the individual country experiences in subsequent postings.