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"Before we used to get sick all the time": perceptions of malaria and use of long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets (LLINs) in a rural Kenyan community

  • Author(s): Dye, Timothy DV
  • Apondi, Rose
  • Lugada, Eric S
  • Kahn, James G
  • Smith, Jacqueline
  • Othoro, Caroline
  • et al.
Abstract

Abstract Background Malaria is a leading global cause of preventable morbidity and mortality, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, despite recent advances in treatment and prevention technologies. Scale-up and wide distribution of long-lasting insecticide-treated nets (LLINs) could rapidly decrease malarial disease in endemic areas, if used properly and continuously. Studies have shown that effective use of LLINs depends, in part, upon understanding causal factors associated with malaria. This study examined malaria beliefs, attitudes, and practices toward LLINs assessed during a large-scale integrated prevention campaign (IPC) in rural Kenya. Methods Qualitative interviews were conducted with 34 IPC participants who received LLINs as part of a comprehensive prevention package of goods and services. One month after distribution, interviewers asked these individuals about their attitudes and beliefs regarding malaria, and about their use of LLINs. Results Virtually all participants noted that mosquitoes were involved in causing malaria, though a substantial proportion of participants (47 percent) also mentioned an incorrect cause in addition to mosquitoes. For example, participants commonly noted that the weather (rain, cold) or consumption of bad food and water caused malaria. Regardless, most participants used the LLINs they were given and most mentioned positive benefits from their use, namely reductions in malarial illness and in the costs associated with its diagnosis and treatment. Conclusions Attitudes toward LLINs were positive in this rural community in Western Kenya, and respondents noted benefits with LLIN use. With improved understanding and clarification of the direct (mosquitoes) and indirect (e.g., standing water) causes of malaria, it is likely that LLIN use can be sustained, offering effective household-level protection against malaria.

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