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BMJ Open. 2012 Nov 24;2(6). pii: e001992. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001992. Print 2012.

A scoping review of malaria forecasting: past work and future directions.

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Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics & Occupational Health, McGill University, Montreal, Canada.



There is a growing body of literature on malaria forecasting methods and the objective of our review is to identify and assess methods, including predictors, used to forecast malaria.


Scoping review. Two independent reviewers searched information sources, assessed studies for inclusion and extracted data from each study.


Search strategies were developed and the following databases were searched: CAB Abstracts, EMBASE, Global Health, MEDLINE, ProQuest Dissertations & Theses and Web of Science. Key journals and websites were also manually searched.


We included studies that forecasted incidence, prevalence or epidemics of malaria over time. A description of the forecasting model and an assessment of the forecast accuracy of the model were requirements for inclusion. Studies were restricted to human populations and to autochthonous transmission settings.


We identified 29 different studies that met our inclusion criteria for this review. The forecasting approaches included statistical modelling, mathematical modelling and machine learning methods. Climate-related predictors were used consistently in forecasting models, with the most common predictors being rainfall, relative humidity, temperature and the normalised difference vegetation index. Model evaluation was typically based on a reserved portion of data and accuracy was measured in a variety of ways including mean-squared error and correlation coefficients. We could not compare the forecast accuracy of models from the different studies as the evaluation measures differed across the studies.


Applying different forecasting methods to the same data, exploring the predictive ability of non-environmental variables, including transmission reducing interventions and using common forecast accuracy measures will allow malaria researchers to compare and improve models and methods, which should improve the quality of malaria forecasting.

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