Preventing Malaria in Pregnancy – fill the coverage gaps

In a press release for World Malaria Day 2017, the World Health Organization called for the global community to “Prevent malaria – save lives” as part of the WHO push for prevention on World Malaria Day, 25th April. WHO recommended that, “Together with diagnosis and treatment, WHO recommends a package of proven prevention approaches, including insecticide treated nets, spraying indoor walls with insecticides, and preventive medicines for the most vulnerable groups: pregnant women, under-fives and infants.” This package has averted 663 million cases have been averted since 2001.

That said, WHO also identified gaps.

  • Approximately 69% of pregnant women in 20 African countries did not have access to the recommended 3 or more doses of preventive treatment.
  • An estimated 43% of people at risk (including pregnant Women) of malaria in the region were not protected by either a net or indoor insecticide spraying in 2015

This gap became evident on a recent visit to Ouargaye Health District in Burkina Faso where National Malaria Control Program and Jhpiego, with support from US President’s Malaria Initiative and USAID’s Mother and Child Survival Project, are setting up a pilot program to test community delivery of IPTp through the existing network of community health workers.

Normally IPTp is delivered as part of antenatal/prenatal care and the new project will use the ANC clinic as a base for training and supervising the CHWs. Health Statistics from the District from 2016 show the challenge that the community approach hopes to address.

Among the approximately 20408 pregnant women in the District, 75% attended ANC once, 67% twice, 58% more than thrice and 56% four or more times. At present IPTp coverage is lower than ANC attendance: 61% received one dose, 56% got 2, 41% received 3, 14% got 4 and only 3% received 5 or more doses.

The pilot project intends to use CHWs mobilize more women to register for ANC and get their first IPTp dose. Then the CHWs, under supervision of the health center staff will deliver additional doses at the appropriate monthly interval.

More and more health interventions, including integrated community case management, are moving into the community. Universal health coverage requires that the health system meet people where they are – let the health system adapt to the clients, not the clients adjust to the convenience of health workers. With this approach the gap in ANC attendance and IPTp coverage will hopefully close, saving more women’s lives through prevention.

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