A critical review of behavioral issues related to malaria control in sub-Saharan Africa: what contributions have social scientists made?

Author: Williams, H.A.H.A.; Jones, C.O.H.

Description: In 1996, Social Science & Medicine published a review of treatment seeking for malaria (McCombie, 1996). Since that time, a significant amount of socio-behavioral research on the home management of malaria has been undertaken. In addition, recent initiatives such as Roll Back Malaria have emphasized the importance of social science inputs to malaria research and control. However, there has been a growing feeling that the potential contributions that social science could and should be making to malaria research and control have yet to be fully realized. To address these issues, this paper critically reviews and synthesizes the literature (published, unpublished and technical reports) pertaining to the home management of illness episodes of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa from 1996 to the end of 2000, and draws conclusions about the use of social science in malaria research and control. The results suggest that while we have amassed increasing quantities of descriptive data on treatment seeking behavior, we still have little understanding of the rationale of drug use from the patient perspective and, perhaps more importantly, barely any information on the rationale of provider behaviors. However, the results underline the dynamic and iterative nature of treatment seeking with multiple sources of care frequently being employed during a single illness episode; and highlight the importance in decision making of gender, socio-economic and cultural position of individuals within households and communities. Furthermore, the impact of political, structural and environmental factors on treatment seeking behaviors is starting to be recognised. Programs to address these issues may be beyond single sector (malaria control programme) interventions, but social science practice in malaria control needs to reflect a realistic appraisal of the complexities that govern human behavior and include critical appraisal and proposals for practical action. Major concerns arising from the review were the lack of evidence of ‘social scientist’ involvement (particularly few from endemic countries) in much of the published research; and concerns with methodological rigor. To increase the effective use of social science, we should focus on a new orientation for field research (including increased methodological rigor), address the gaps in research knowledge, strengthen the relationship between research, policy and practice; and concentrate on capacity strengthening and advocacy.

Subject headings: Africa South of the Sahara; Antimalarials/therapeutic use; Humans; Malaria/prevention & control; Patient Acceptance of Health Care; Research; Social Medicine/organization & administration

Publication year: 2004

Journal or book title: Social Science & Medicine

Volume: 59

Issue: 3

Pages: 501-523

Find the full text : https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953603005951

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Type: Journal Article

Serial number: 165