3 years ago

Preventing malaria in the Peruvian Amazon: a qualitative study in Iquitos, Peru

Graciela Meza, Gilles de Wildt, Ian Newell, James Anthoney, Connie Wiskin
In Peru, despite decades of concerted control efforts, malaria remains a significant public health burden. Peru has recently exhibited a dramatic rise in malaria incidence, impeding South America’s progress towards malaria elimination. The Amazon basin, in particular the Loreto region of Peru, has been identified as a target for the implementation of intensified control strategies, aiming for elimination. No research has addressed why vector control strategies in Loreto have had limited impact in the past, despite vector control elsewhere being highly effective in reducing malaria transmission. This study employed qualitative methods to explore factors limiting the success of vector control strategies in the region. Twenty semi-structured interviews were conducted among adults attending a primary care centre in Iquitos, Peru, together with 3 interviews with key informants (health care professionals). The interviews focussed on how local knowledge, together with social and cultural attitudes, determined the use of vector control methods. Five themes emerged. (a) Participants believed malaria to be embedded within their culture, and commonly blamed this for a lack of regard for prevention. (b) They perceived a shift in mosquito biting times to early evening, rendering night-time use of bed nets less effective. (c) Poor preventive practices were compounded by a consensus that malaria prevention was the government’s responsibility, and that this reduced motivation for personal prevention. (d) Participants confused the purpose of space-spraying. (e) Participants’ responses also exposed persisting misconceptions, mainly concerning the cause of malaria and best practices for its prevention. To eliminate malaria from the Americas, region-specific strategies need to be developed that take into account the local social and cultural contexts. In Loreto, further research is needed to explore the potential shift in biting behaviour of Anopheles darlingi, and how this interacts with the population’s social behaviours and current use of preventive measures. Attitudes concerning personal responsibility for malaria prevention and long-standing misconceptions as to the cause of malaria and best preventive practices also need to be addressed.
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