how can malaria affect our society?
There are many ways in which malaria can potentially affect our society, and particularly people living in highly endemic areas for transmission.
Most obviously, malaria has a huge burden on health services, as sick people require diagnosis, treatment and sometimes hospital care. These days of illness prevent people from going to work or children from going to school, and this can have a knock-on effect on a society’s economy. In fact, somescientists suggest that disease is a key factor “trapping” developing countries into poverty (see Jeffrey Sach’s work on the poverty trap, for example).
High levels of absenteeism from school can hinder efforts to improve literacy rates and stall the progress of education systems. Moreover, since children are one of the highest risk groups for infection with malaria, deaths occur disproportionately in children under the age of 5, contributing significantly to many countries’ high child mortality rates; high child mortality rates often result in high fertility rates, as families seek to replace children lost to disease or other causes. This in turn can lead to a rapidly growing population, which later on can result in a workforce which is larger than the number of available jobs, leading to high youth/young adult unemployment and dissatisfaction.
However, efforts to control malaria, as well as other diseases, have also had positive impacts on many societies, through building clinics for local health care as well as training health workers in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the disease. There is currently a huge global push to reduce the burden of malaria, and particularly to eliminate deaths from the disease by 2015, which will have enormous benefits to many societies.
Moreover, the process of international collaboration required for these initiatives can be seen to strengthen relationships between donors and recipient organisations in developing countries; these partnerships create benefits that surpass malaria control efforts alone, as they often have knock-on effects on other aspects of health care and development. As such, while malaria is undoubtedly a huge problem and a negative impact on society, by working together to control this disease the benefits to society may even outweigh the simple health improvements and cause lasting positive change.