Global investments in controlling malaria have led to some exciting reductions in the burden of malaria. In some areas, malaria-related deaths have dropped by more than 90%. As malaria transmission declines, a greater fraction of pediatric fevers are from other causes. However, these fevers continue to be treated as malaria, often despite the availability of diagnostic testing. In a typical rural health facility in Kenya, more tan 90% of febrile patients are prescribed an antimalarial when no diagnostic tests are available. Even when microscopy or rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) are available, between 50-80% of patients with a negative test are nonetheless prescribed antimalarials. Inappropriately treated fevers in children can lead to serious consequences for the patient and can accelerate the spread of drug resistance. In addition to the risk to patients, overuse of antimalarials also puts financial strain on the government health system. Although there is considerable incentive for governments to reduce drug costs and wastage, the financial pressure is not experienced at the appropriate levels of decision- making. This project aims to test an innovative, sustainable financial incentive designed to reduce the number of non-malarial fevers that are treated inappropriately with antimalarial drugs. We will test a financial incentive targeted at the health facility to determine if it improves adherence to diagnostic results and clinical protocols. Eighteen rural health facilities in Western Kenya will be enrolled and randomly allocated to one of two arms. We will compare the effectiveness of clinical and technical training in diagnosis of malaria alone (Arm 1) to training plus financial incentives linked to prescription practices (Arm 2 in improving diagnosis and treatment of malaria and non-malaria fevers. The practice of prescribing antimalarials to patients with a negative diagnostic will be compared between facilities with and without the incentive structure. Secondary outcomes will include sensitivity and specificity of routine microscopy at health centers, use of alternative treatments for slide negative fevers, and frequency of stock-outs of antimalarial drugs.

Public Health Relevance

This project will tackle an important implementation research problem. It seeks to test solutions to the problem of poor adherence to evidence-based clinical guidelines for malaria treatment, and thereby reduce inappropriate antimalarial drug use and drug wastage. This project will be conducted in collaboration with Kenya's Division of Malaria Control and avenues to roll-out the intervention, if successful, will be actively explored.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Dissemination and Implementation Research in Health Study Section (DIRH)
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Rao, Malla R
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Duke University
Internal Medicine/Medicine
Schools of Medicine
United States
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