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PLoS Med. 2013;10(5):e1001417. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001417. Epub 2013 May 7.

Measuring coverage in MNCH: accuracy of measuring diagnosis and treatment of childhood malaria from household surveys in Zambia.

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Department of Global Health Systems and Development, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, New Orleans, Louisiana, United States of America.



To assess progress in the scale-up of rapid diagnostic tests and artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) across Africa, malaria control programs have increasingly relied on standardized national household surveys to determine the proportion of children with a fever in the past 2 wk who received an effective antimalarial within 1-2 d of the onset of fever. Here, the validity of caregiver recall for measuring the primary coverage indicators for malaria diagnosis and treatment of children <5 y old is assessed.


A cross-sectional study was conducted in five public clinics in Kaoma District, Western Provence, Zambia, to estimate the sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy of caregivers' recall of malaria testing, diagnosis, and treatment, compared to a gold standard of direct observation at the health clinics. Compared to the gold standard of clinic observation, for recall for children with fever in the past 2 wk, the sensitivity for recalling that a finger/heel stick was done was 61.9%, with a specificity of 90.0%. The sensitivity and specificity of caregivers' recalling a positive malaria test result were 62.4% and 90.7%, respectively. The sensitivity and specificity of recalling that the child was given a malaria diagnosis, irrespective of whether a laboratory test was actually done, were 76.8% and 75.9%, respectively. The sensitivity and specificity for recalling that an ACT was given were 81.0% and 91.5%, respectively.


Based on these findings, results from household surveys should continue to be used for ascertaining the coverage of children with a fever in the past 2 wk that received an ACT. However, as recall of a malaria diagnosis remains suboptimal, its use in defining malaria treatment coverage is not recommended.

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