To evaluate the determinants of compliance with national policies recommending Artemisinin Combination Therapy (ACT) for the treatment of uncomplicated malaria in the community.
We used data from Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda national household surveys that were conducted with a standardized World Health Organization (WHO) methodology to measure access to and use of medicines. We analyzed all episodes of acute fever reported in the five surveys. We used logistic regression models accounting for the clustered design of the surveys to identify determinants of seeking care in public healthcare facilities, of being treated with antimalarials, and of receiving ACT.
Overall, 92% of individuals with a febrile episode sought care outside the home, 96% received medicines, 67% were treated with antimalarials, and 16% received ACT. The choice of provider was influenced by perceptions about medicines availability and affordability. In addition, seeking care in a public healthcare facility was the single most important predictor of treatment with ACT [odds ratio (OR): 4.64, 95% confidence intervals (CI): 2.98-7.22, P < 0.001]. Children under 5 years old were more likely than adults to be treated with antimalarials [OR: 1.28, CI: 0.91-1.79, not significant (NS)] but less likely to receive ACT (OR: 0.80, CI: 0.57-1.13, NS).
Our results confirm the high prevalence of presumptive antimalarial treatment for acute fever, especially in public healthcare facilities where poor people seek care. They show that perceptions about access to medicines shape behaviors by directing patients and caregivers to sources of care where they believe medicines are accessible. The success of national policies recommending ACT for the treatment of uncomplicated malaria depends not only on restricting ACT to confirmed malaria cases, but also on ensuring that ACT is available and affordable for those who need it.