How do beliefs and attitude affect the spread, treatment and prevention of malaria?
Accurate information and knowledge about how malaria is transmitted, diagnosed and treated is crucial to controlling the disease, for the general public living in malarial areas, travelers to these areas and health professionals. For example, many travelers are unaware that their destination is in a malaria transmission zone, so they do not take appropriate preventive precautions. Similarly, many travelers I have met believe that if they have had malaria once, they are immune and cannot get reinfected, so don’t bother protecting themselves from mosquitoes – this is not true, and they are inadvertently putting themselves at great risk.
In terms of endemic areas, the focus is on educating people about day-to-day preventive measures, such as sleeping under long-lasting insecticide treated bednets and indoor residual spraying. Educational campaigns that focus on simple, straightforward ways to prevent malaria are more likely to influence people’s attitudes and lead to better malaria control. Similarly, teaching people to seek accurate diagnosis and then ensuring they have appropriate treatment is an important step.
In some places, people feel they cannot afford to visit a doctor or clinic, or would rather place their trust in a traditional healer or healing herbs; since the most effective medications against malaria are treatments such as artemisinin-based combination therapies, which are available through official health sources such as clinics, believing in traditional medicine can lead to the malaria infection becoming very severe, and even resulting in death. As such, another component to control is making sure that medical services such as clinics are easily accessible even for the poorest people, provide good health care and are affordable.