On Wednesday, the 20th of January, Dr Catherine Goodman – an economist from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, visited the Williams Project and gave the first talk of the Lent term, titled “Malaria treatment in Africa – reaching those most in need”.
At first Dr Goodman talked about the wide variety of people from different fields who make up the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who are not only clinicians, but also researchers, anthropologists or, such as Dr Goodman, economists. The School’s main mission is to improve health and health equity in the UK and worldwide, by developing and testing diagnostic tools for malaria, TB and HIV, pursuing vaccine programmes, examining the cultural issues in Ebola control or investigating the impact of charging user fees for health care. In her work, Dr Goodman focuses on economic aspects of introducing effective interventions for malaria.
We found out that half of the world’s population (3.4 billion people) is at risk of malaria and each year there are about 665,000 malaria deaths, of which 90% occur in Africa. Frighteningly, most of these deaths are children aged under five living in sub-Saharan Africa. Most deaths occur in countries with the highest rates of extreme poverty. We were also quite surprised to find out that in the past there was a number of cases documented in Essex, but to our relief, there is no high risk of this happening again at the moment! There is definitely a strong correlation between malaria and poverty and malaria has serious economic impacts in Africa, slowing economic growth and development. Dr Goodman spoke also about some effective malaria prevention interventions undertaken – insecticide-treated nets, indoor residual spraying and intermittent preventive treatment. Big hopes lie currently in the RTS vaccine, which works effectively in nearly 50% of the cases. We understood why the public sector in many African countries happens to fail in providing antimalarials and we found out about a not very successful idea of a global ACT subsidy and some ideas for the future.
To conclude, the talk was absolutely absorbing and allowed us to have a good insight into the current situation in the global problem of malaria. It has also inspired us to think about the future of malaria treatment and what we could possibly do to improve it and make a change.