“I have been struck again and again by how important measurement is to improving the human condition.”
We couldn’t agree more with this sentiment from Bill Gates’ Annual Letter. In malaria control and elimination, measurement is at the heart of what we do. Built into MACEPA’s mission is the responsibility to share the lessons we’ve learned while working with governments to implement malaria control and elimination efforts: both what to do and what not to do.
Children born today have a higher chance of reaching their fifth birthday than those born 15 years ago. Part of the reason for this achievement has been a relentless commitment to implementing the most effective programs possible, a willingness to shifts gears when the data tells us it’s necessary.
As Bill Gates explains in his letter, continued progress requires new goals that will lay a foundation for even bigger achievements. This resonates with us at MACEPA and others in the malaria community as we find ourselves on the verge of an exciting shift, as some countries in sub-Saharan Africa are beginning to create communities that are free from malaria. Just this week, Zambia, one of MACEPA’s focus countries, and Rwanda received awards for their malaria control efforts.
And yet, progress should not translate into complacency. It’s like riding a bike to the top of a hill; if we quit too soon, we will lose the ground we worked so hard to overcome.
At this promising stage, measurement will be more important than ever. Malaria is resilient; cases must be thoroughly monitored and treated as soon as they are detected to root out the disease once and for all. Data-gathering is foundational to the three-step approach for malaria control: rapid reporting (shown in real-time on this map of Zambia), mass test and treat, and active surveillance.
The numbers will guide the way, step by step, until the only number left is zero and malaria is finally relegated to the history books.
Photo: Todd Jennings/PATH