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Do malaria vector control measures impact disease-related behaviour and knowledge? Evidence from a large-scale larviciding intervention in Tanzania

Mathieu Maheu-Giroux and Marcia C Castro*

Author Affiliations

Department of Global Health & Population, Harvard School of Public Health, 665 Huntington Avenue, Bldg I, Room 1113, Boston, MA 02115, USA

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Malaria Journal 2013, 12:422  doi:10.1186/1475-2875-12-422

Published: 15 November 2013

Abstract

Background

Recent efforts of accelerated malaria control towards the long-term goal of elimination had significant impacts in reducing malaria transmission. While these efforts need to be sustained over time, a scenario of low transmission could bring about changes in individual disease risk perception, hindering adherence to protective measures, and affecting disease-related knowledge. The goal of this study was to investigate the potential impact of a successful malaria vector control intervention on bed net usage and malaria-related knowledge.

Methods

Dar es Salaam’s Urban Malaria Control Program was launched in 2004 with the aim of developing a sustainable larviciding intervention. Larviciding was scaled-up using a stepped-wedge design. Cross-sectional and longitudinal data were collected using a randomized cluster sampling design (2004–2008). Prevalence ratios (PR) for the effect of the larviciding intervention on bed net usage (N = 64,537) and household heads’ knowledge of malaria symptoms and transmission (N = 11,254) were obtained from random effects regression models.

Results

The probability that individuals targeted by larviciding had used a bed net was reduced by 5% as compared to those in non-intervention areas (PR = 0.95; 95% credible intervals (CrI): 0.94-0.97) and the magnitude of this effect increased with time. Larviciding also led to a decline in household heads’ knowledge of malaria symptoms (PR = 0.88; 95% CrI: 0.83-0.92) but no evidence of effect on knowledge of malaria transmission was found.

Conclusion

Successful control interventions could bring about further challenges to sustaining gains in reducing malaria transmission if not accompanied by strategies to avoid changes in individual knowledge and behaviour. This study points to two major research gaps. First, there is an urgent need to gather more evidence on the extent to which countries that have achieved significant decline in malaria transmission are also observing changes in individual behaviour and knowledge. Second, multidisciplinary assessments that combine quantitative and qualitative data, utilizing theories of health behaviour and theories of knowledge, are needed to optimize efforts of national malaria control programmes, and ultimately contribute to sustained reduction in malaria transmission.

Keywords:
Malaria; Plasmodium falciparum; Vector control; Larviciding; Behaviour change; Bayesian statistics; United Republic of Tanzania