In places where local populations face more than one infectious disease, health officials may choose to integrate disease control efforts in order to combat multiple diseases at once. Integration refers to the creation of linkages among existing programs to improve the delivery of health interventions given existing commitments and resources. To be effective, integrated disease control requires accurate measurement of variables such as infection patterns, local population structures, and resources.
Unfortunately, local disease control officers charged with making public health decisions rarely have access to tools that could help them understand the varying factors at work in the areas they manage. To address this lack, the authors of a new PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases study have created an app that translates academic-level analysis into user-friendly text and data for the local officers in charge of public health campaigns.
The app, which focuses on the diseases schistosomiasis and malaria, tests the usefulness of integrated treatments such as insecticide-treated bed nets, indoor residual insecticide spraying, and the mass drug administration of parasite-killing medication. These integrated treatments would combat the spread of both diseases at once by killing the insects that carry them. A user can run the mathematical model twice: once with integrated treatment, such as maintaining canal-lining to prevent seepage where malaria-carrying mosquitos could breed, and once without. By comparing the two outcomes, the app allows users to decide if an integrated control program will be effective in their community.
Disease control officers in Mali, Uganda, and Yemen reacted positively, which suggests that this data-driven app could provide helpful recommendations to integrate schistosomiasis and malaria control efforts. The authors note that integrating disease programs can be difficult and requires significant human and financial resources. Therefore, “being able to ascertain the expected benefits—if any—is an important step forward” for the local officials working to combat these diseases.
Reference: Standley CJ, Graeden E, Kerr J, Sorrell EM, Katz R (2018) Decision support for evidence-based integration of disease control: A proof of concept for malaria and schistosomiasis. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases 12(4): e0006328. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0006328
Image Credit: Standley et al, (2018)