Friday, February 03, 2012

Blog 3: Researchers Say Malaria Deaths Are Twice The Official Count

The goal of the World Health Organization (WHO) to reduce malaria to near-zero by 2015 may be a long stretch according to a new report that estimates malaria related deaths to be twice as high as originally estimated.  The WHO estimated that 655,000 people died from malaria in 2010, but new findings show that the total could actually be up to 1.24 million.  A thirty percent decrease in malaria has been seen since the 2004 peak, but Christopher Murray, a researcher at The Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, says that there is more uncertainty about malaria deaths than any other cause.  In the 99 countries in Africa that malaria still seriously affects, death certificates and cause of death are nonexistent.  Murray and his team go around and do extensive interviews on the deceased family members and neighbors to compose enough evidence for a cause of death.  With this technique, known as a “verbal autopsy”, Murray discovered there were 433,000 more deaths of malaria worldwide of people over the age of 5.  This contradicts the general belief that most malaria deaths come from children under the age of 5.  Sarah Kline, the director of the UK branch of Malaria No More, said that even though these findings contribute to the on going discussion of malaria prevention, it would most likely not change the tools that are used to fight malaria.  Another problem in combating the disease is that the Global Health Fund to fight AIDs, tuberculosis, and malaria, which accounts for two thirds of the world’s anti-malaria spending, has suspended its grants since last fall. 

The on going battle to fight the malaria epidemic seems to be one of the few global health issues that has shown quantitative success.  The thirty percent decrease seen since the year 2004, shows the achievement that global funding has contributed by providing mosquito nets and vaccinations.  Murray’s new research sheds light on the fact that a lot of cases of malaria still go undetected in poverty stricken nations.  Nations to poor to even provide a certificate and proper cause of death attribute to the potential double number of actual malaria cases worldwide.  This new finding could put a hold on cutting the malaria epidemic to near-zero by 2015.  As Sarah Kline stated these numbers should be considered with caution and most likely they will not lead to changes in how the diseases is being fought.  Funding from places like the Global Health Fund should continue their progress of providing aid to those who need it.  Bill Gates, who donated $750 million to the Global Fund last week at the World Economic Forum, demonstrated that people should still put faith in the fund to continue the fight against malaria as well as tuberculosis and AIDs.  Epidemics such as malaria can only be fought if more global participation comes into action.  President Obama’s Global Health Initiative, which has the goal to improve health systems and fight diseases in coordination, is a step in the right direction to help eradicate global health threats.  If more is done on a global scale to combat the disease, more people can be reached and treated.  The “invisible malaria cases” not taken into account by the WHO will have a greater chance of being reached with global coordination, and they seem to be the ones who need it the most due to the extreme poverty of their countries.  

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