Across many malaria-endemic areas in rural Africa, the communication gap between managers, health workers, and patients is a significant barrier to efficient malaria control. The rapid expansion of mobile network coverage and the widespread availability of basic handsets have the potential to substantively bridge the communication gap. Text messaging, as the least-expensive mobile phone function found on all handsets, could improve the delivery of health services and health outcomes.
Six major areas of malaria control in which deficiencies are apparent and text messaging interventions could be beneficial are:
- Disease and treatment effectiveness surveillance
- Monitoring of the availability of health commodities
- Pharmacovigilance and post-marketing surveillance of the safety and quality of antimalarial drugs
- Health worker adherence to guidelines
- Patient adherence to medication regimen
- Post-treatment review
Text messages transmitting information from the periphery of the health systems to malaria control managers are in the first three malaria control areas: (1) disease and treatment effectiveness surveillance, (2) monitoring of the availability of health commodities, and (3) pharmacovigilance and post-marketing surveillance of the safety and quality of antimalarial medicines. Future projects in these three areas should demonstrate responses to data signals and comparative advantages with routine information systems.
Text messages in the second three areas transmit information to health workers and patients to support the management of malaria patients by improving (4) health workers’ adherence to guidelines, (5) patient adherence to medicines, and (6) post-treatment review. Future priorities in these areas are cost-effectiveness evaluations, qualitative research, and studies measuring impact on the processes of care and health outcomes.
Funding: DZ is supported by the Wellcome Trust project grant [#084253]. RWS is supported by the Wellcome Trust as Principal Research Fellow [#079080]. AOT is supported by the Worldwide Antimalarial Resistance Network (WWARN) through a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant [#48807.01]. All authors acknowledge support from the Wellcome Trust core grant [#092654/Z/10/A]. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
Citation: Zurovac D, Talisuna AO, Snow RW (2012) Mobile Phone Text Messaging: Tool for Malaria Control in Africa. PLoS Med 9(2): e1001176. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001176
Copyright: © 2012 Zurovac et al. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.