Health Workers: The Key to Health Systems for Better Malaria Treatment

Health Workers: The Key to Health Systems for Better Malaria Treatment

{Photo Credit: Warren Zelman}Photo Credit: Warren Zelman

Malaria in pregnant women contributes to several negative outcomes including miscarriage, premature birth, labor complications, low birth-weight babies, anemia, and maternal and newborn death. In Sierra Leone, malaria in pregnancy and child mortality rates are especially high: the disease contributes to nearly 40 percent of deaths of children under the age of five. While there is a clear understanding of the interventions needed throughout the country, at training institutions and health facilities, there is a gap in the skillset and knowledge of how to implement effective malaria diagnosis and treatment.

At the end of March, the National Malaria Control Program (NMCP) in Sierra Leone held a three-day workshop with partners to align its Malaria in pregnancy Guidelines and training manuals  with new WHO recommendations and the country’s 2016-2020 Malaria Control National Strategic Plan. During the workshop, implemented by MSH’s Leadership, Management and Governance (LMG) project, health officials decided one specific way to improve both  health facility and community-based care was to start at the beginning –  the next generation of health care workers. Within nurse training institutions, tutors themselves often lack the necessary training on up-to-date malaria case management processes, and aren’t effectively teaching students the proper techniques.

Training the Next Generation of Health Workers

The LMG/NMCP organized a two-day training for 29 tutors, including senior nurses, doctors, and district health management teams from public and private nurse training institutions, to strengthen their understanding of effective malaria diagnostic and treatment procedures. They, in turn, will integrate these updated procedures and trainings into the curriculum for final year students. This form of trickle- down training ensures graduates who are sent to work in peripheral health units across Sierra Leone will carry out the proper malaria diagnostic and treatment procedures and ultimately contribute to malaria control.

“This kind of training is critical to building the skills and capacity of nursing students who will soon be going out to the field as key players in the fight against malaria,” saidSister Anitta Kamara, NMCP case management focal person. “It will certainly have a positive impact on the diagnostic and effective treatment of malaria cases with the graduates’ contribution.”

MSH also uses community mobilization activities, develops and distributes job aids and educational materials, and utilizes quality assurance tools to assess and improve service standards to mitigate the effects of malariain pregnancy. Involving community workers and introducing community-based interventions has been shown to increase overall health improvements, specifically in reducing mortality rates in children under five. MSH also integrates malaria prevention and treatment into existing maternal health programs, trains health workers, raises awareness in communities, educates pregnant women, and develops strategies to reach pregnant women in remote or challenging peri-urban settings.

All of these efforts aim to affect significant improvements in malaria diagnosis and treatment to ultimately reduce malaria in pregnancy deaths and save the lives of women and children.