“There is no free here, you have to pay” – IPTp in Mali

Colleagues[i] from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Sciences, Techniques, and Technologies of Bamako presented a poster today examining costs for obtaining IPTp at the American Society of Tropical Medicine 64th Annual Meeting. Their Abstract on actual and perceived costs as barriers to intermittent preventive treatment of malaria in pregnancy in Mali appears below.

Mali attending anc receiving IPT“There is no free here,” the words of a Malian husband, illustrate how perceptions of cost can deter uptake of intermittent preventive treatment of malaria in pregnancy (IPTp). Following WHO recommendations, the Malian Ministry of Health (MOH) recommends three doses of IPTp at monthly intervals. However, despite a national policy that IPTp be provided free of charge, only 35% of pregnant women receive at least one dose and less than 20% receive two or more doses.

We explored perceptions and experiences of IPTp cost in Mali, and their impact on uptake, using qualitative interviews and focus groups with pregnant women, husbands and mothers-in-law. We also interviewed and observed health workers at four health centers two in Sikasso Region and two in Koulikoro.

Mali missed IPT opportunitiesDespite national-level policies, actual IPTp costs varied widely at our study sites – between regions, facilities, and visits. Pregnant women may pay for IPTp, receive it free, or both at different times. Health centers often charge a lump sum for ANC visits that include both some free and some fee-based drugs and services. This makes it difficult for women and families to decipher which services are free and which require payments.

As a result, some forego even free care that, because it is not itemized, appears not to be free. Varying costs also complicate household budgeting for health care, particularly as women often rely on their husbands or husbands’ families for money.

While health facilities operating under the cost-recovery model strive to provide free IPTp, their own financial constraints often make this impossible. Preventing malaria in pregnancy depends upon women receiving the recommended doses of IPTp. However, it is clear that both actual and perceived costs are currently barriers to IPTp uptake.

Given the confusion around cost of services in the two study regions, more detailed national-level studies of both perceived and actual costs could help inform policy and program decisions promoting IPTp. These studies should evaluate both quantitatively and qualitatively the cost information provided by health facilities and pharmacies to pregnant women and their families.

[i] Emily A. Hurley, Namratha Rao, Meredith C. Klein, Hawa Diarra, Samba I. Diop, Seydou Doumbia, & Steven A. Harvey

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