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Home- or community-based programmes for treating malaria (Review)

Okwundu, Charles, Nagpal, Sukrti, Musekiwa, Alfred and Sinclair, David (2013) 'Home- or community-based programmes for treating malaria (Review)'. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Issue 5, CD009527.

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Malaria is an important cause of morbidity and mortality, in particular among children and pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa. Prompt access to diagnosis and treatment with effective antimalarial drugs is a central component of the World Health Organization's (WHO) strategy for malaria control. Home- or community-based programmes for managing malaria are one strategy that has been proposed to overcome the geographical barrier to malaria treatment.

To evaluate home- and community-based management strategies for treating malaria.

Search methods
We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials published in The Cochrane Library; MEDLINE; EMBASE; Science Citation Index; PsycINFO/LIT; CINAHL; WHO clinical trial registry platform; and the metaRegister of Controlled Trials up to September 2012.

Selection criteria
Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and non-RCTs that evaluated the effects of a home- or community-based programme for treating malaria in a malaria endemic setting.

Data collection and analysis
Two authors independently screened and selected studies, extracted data, and assessed the risk of bias. Where possible the effects of interventions are compared using risk ratios (RR), and presented with 95% confidence intervals (CI). The quality of the evidence was assessed using the GRADE approach.

Main results
We identified 10 trials that met the inclusion criteria. The interventions involved brief training of basic-level health workers or mothers, and most provided the antimalarial for free or at a highly subsidized cost. In eight of the studies, fevers were treated presumptively without parasitological confirmation with microscopy or a rapid diagnostic test (RDT). Two studies trained community health workers to use RDTs as a component of community management of fever.

Home- or community-based strategies probably increase the number of people with fever who receive an appropriate antimalarial within 24 hours (RR 2.27, 95% CI 1.79 to 2.88 in one trial; RR 9.79, 95% CI 6.87 to 13.95 in a second trial; 3099 participants, moderate quality evidence). They may also reduce all-cause mortality, but to date this has only been demonstrated in rural Ethiopia (RR 0.58, 95% CI 0.44 to 0.77, one trial, 13,677 participants, moderate quality evidence).

Hospital admissions in children were reported in one small trial from urban Uganda, with no effect detected (437 participants, very low quality evidence). No studies reported on severe malaria. For parasitaemia prevalence, the study from urban Uganda demonstrated a reduction in community parasite prevalence (RR 0.22, 95% CI 0.08 to 0.64, 365 participants), but a second study in rural Burkina Faso did not (1006 participants). Home- or community-based programmes may have little or no effect on the prevalence of anaemia (three trials, 3612 participants, low quality evidence). None of the included studies reported on adverse effects of using home- or community-based programmes for treating malaria.

In two studies which trained community health workers to only prescribe antimalarials after a positive RDT, prescriptions of antimalarials were reduced compared to the control group where community health workers used clinical diagnosis (RR 0.39, 95% CI 0.18 to 0.84, two trials, 5944 participants, moderate quality evidence). In these two studies, mortality and hospitalizations remained very low in both groups despite the lower use of antimalarials (two trials, 5977 participants, low quality evidence).

Authors' conclusions
Home- or community-based interventions which provide antimalarial drugs free of charge probably improve prompt access to antimalarials, and there is moderate quality evidence from rural Ethiopia that they may impact on childhood mortality when implemented in appropriate settings.

Programmes which treat all fevers presumptively with antimalarials lead to overuse antimalarials, and potentially undertreat other causes of fever such as pneumonia. Incorporating RDT diagnosis into home- or community-based programmes for malaria may help to reduce this overuse of antimalarials, and has been shown to be safe under trial conditions.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This review is published as a Cochrane Review in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 5, CD009527. Cochrane Reviews are regularly updated as new evidence emerges and in response to comments and criticisms, and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews should be consulted for the most recent version of the Review.
Subjects: W General Medicine. Health Professions > Health Services. Patients and Patient Advocacy > W 84 Health services. Delivery of health care
QV Pharmacology > Anti-Inflammatory Agents. Anti-Infective Agents. Antineoplastic Agents > QV 256 Antimalarials
WA Public Health > Health Problems of Special Population Groups > WA 395 Health in developing countries
WB Practice of Medicine > Therapeutics > WB 330 Drug therapy
WC Communicable Diseases > Tropical and Parasitic Diseases > WC 750 Malaria
WC Communicable Diseases > Tropical and Parasitic Diseases > WC 770 Therapy
Faculty: Department: Clinical Sciences & International Health > Clinical Sciences Department
Digital Object Identifer (DOI):
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Depositing User: Christianne Esparza
Date Deposited: 10 Jun 2014 11:13
Last Modified: 22 Feb 2018 16:31


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