Measurement of Malaria: Indicators as Part of the Fight

Annē Linn

The Demographic and Health Surveys Program, CCP and ICF | Communications Associate
In Ghana, mother and son, Mercy and Daniel, lie under the insecticide-treated net (ITN) they received to protect them from malaria.

In Ghana, mother and son, Mercy and Daniel, lie under the insecticide-treated net (ITN) they received to protect them from malaria. 2016 Sarah Hoibak/VectorWorks, Courtesy of Photoshare.

Malaria continues to pose a tremendous public health threat around the globe. An estimated 3.3 billion people, or 40% of the world’s population, live in areas of malaria risk. The investments made in vector control, malaria in pregnancy, and prompt diagnosis and treatment of malaria infections have resulted in many successes, but challenges remain. One of these challenges is the question of how to best measure the fight against malaria.

Decision makers in malaria-endemic settings need to understand available data to answer programmatic questions and make informed decisions. What proportion of households in a country or region have at least one insecticide-treated net (ITN)? What proportion of the population used an ITN last night? What proportion of women received at least three doses of sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) to prevent malaria during their last pregnancy? What proportion of children with fever had advice or treatment sought for them? What proportion of children age 6-59 months are infected with malaria?

The answers to these questions can be most accurately estimated through household surveys. Malaria-related household surveys, which include the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), Malaria Indicator Survey (MIS), and Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), are nationally representative, population-based household surveys that serve as a principal measurement tool to collect data for measuring outcome and impact indicators for malaria programs and interventions.

The RBM Partnership to End Malaria’s Monitoring and Evaluation Reference Group has created a list of recommended indicators to be measured via household surveys. These standardized indicators cover vector control, intermittent preventive treatment during pregnancy (IPTp), case management, and morbidity. They are designed to be used by stakeholders at the local, national, and international level to make evidence-based decisions about malaria programs. But to use these indicators, one must know how to interpret them.

The new Measuring Malaria through Household Surveys course, available on the Global Health eLearning Center, provides an overview of the malaria indicators collected through household surveys, helping learners understand the data collection, calculation, and interpretation of key malaria indicators. The course is designed to strengthen the capacity of global health and development professionals to effectively use household malaria indicators in programmatic decision making and monitoring and evaluation of malaria programs. Professionals from donor agencies, ministries of health, implementing and collaborating agencies, and those with programmatic expertise in malaria, as well as generalist staff, will benefit from the course.

Standardized malaria indicators are essential for measuring progress. This new course exists to facilitate the use of these indicators to make decisions that pave the way for more progress in the fight against malaria.