A major puzzle in malaria treatment remains the dual problem of underuse and overuse of malaria medications, which deplete scarce public resources used for subsidies and lead to drug resistance. One explanation is that health behaviour, especially in the context of incomplete information, could be driven by beliefs, pivotal to the success of health interventions. The objective of this study is to investigate how population beliefs change in response to an experimental intervention which was shown to improve access to rapid diagnostic testing (RDT) through community health workers (CHWs) and to increase appropriate use of anti-malaria medications.
There has been a successful push towards parasitological diagnosis of malaria in Africa, mainly with rapid diagnostic tests (mRDTs), which has reduced over-prescribing of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACT) to malaria test-negative patients. The effect on prescribing for test-positive patients has received much less attention. Malaria infection in endemic Africa is often most dangerous for young children and those in low-transmission settings. This study examined non-prescription of antimalarials for patients with malaria infection demonstrated by positive mRDT results, and in particular these groups who are most vulnerable to poor outcomes if antimalarials are not given.