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Pregnant Women In Sub-Saharan Africa Not Receiving Recommended Malaria Prevention Treatment, Study Says

“[D]espite relatively high attendance at clinics for expectant mothers and their newborns throughout sub-Saharan Africa, statistics show that just a little over 21 percent of women are receiving intermittent preventive treatment in pregnancy, or IPT, and fewer than 40 percent of them are being given protective bed nets,” VOA News reports. For the past 20 years the WHO “has recommended that pregnant women in areas with high rates of malaria receive insecticide-treated bed nets and periodic doses of a cheap drug to prevent the disease.” According to Jenny Hill of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, program manager for a research partnership called the Malaria and Pregnancy Consortium, “an analysis of 99 studies” — published in the journal PLOS Medicine on Tuesday — “found a number of barriers to malaria prevention, including unclear policy and guidance from government ministers and health care officials and, at the clinical level, lack of clean water, drug shortages and confusion about procedures for administering IPT.”

Noting the WHO “recommends that expectant women receive IPT during regular visits to prenatal clinics, usually around four times in the course of a pregnancy,” VOA writes, “Free intermittent preventive treatment [during] pregnancy is the policy in 37 countries across the region, according to Hill. Yet, investigators found prenatal clinics, known as ANCs, posed economic obstacles that discouraged women from coming back” (Berman, 7/23). According to the journal’s “Speaking of Medicine” blog, “The barriers identified in this study may be helpful as a checklist for use by country malaria programs and policymakers to identify factors that influence the uptake of these interventions in their specific location or context” (7/23).