Testing and treating rural populations

By Ian Hennessee, Peace Corps volunteer
Originally posted on Stomping Out Malaria in Africa

This year Peace Corps Senegal’s proverbial malaria stomp has gotten a little extra ‘oomph’ with a promising new program of early testing and treatment called PECADOM Plus. The project was founded by Health Volunteer Ian Hennessee and his counterpart Cheikh Tandian and local doctor Ismaila Diop. The aim of the project is early detection of malaria of every community member in order to promptly treat malaria cases and diminish the number of malaria vectors. The approach is to train health workers and local village groups on active surveillance, testing, and treatment of malaria. Project expenses were supported by USAID Small Project Assistance funding. The majority of funds requested were used to pay a modest wage for the hours above and beyond expectations of a community health worker.

Cheikh Tandian treating a man who was too sick to leave his hut.

Cheikh Tandian treating a man who was too sick to leave his hut.

Each week, the health workers conduct village-wide sweeps, going from house to house to test, treat, or refer every potential case of malaria. Midway through the project, conclusive results are still not in. However, preliminary data show a greatly decreased incidence of malaria in targeted villages and a significant drop in cases of severe malaria seen at the health post. Fingers crossed and a great many of Inshallahs!

Ian initially designed this program to complement existing malaria interventions in this remote area of Kedougou. Though universal coverage and free medicines are available to the population, geographic, educational and financial barriers still prevent access to care. Malaria rates thus skyrocket each rainy season and only a tiny fraction of cases are ever seen at the health post.

An existing program of the Senegalese Health Ministry called PECADOM provides an incredible solution to many of these barriers. Health workers are trained to test and treat simple malaria in the most remote villages, a backpack and a small supply of medicines the only health infrastructure they need. Though this program removes geographic barriers by bringing the health worker to the village, innumerable cases of malaria remain untreated at home. Clearly there is a need to go even further, to bring the health worker to each and every household.

Peace Corps volunteer Ian Hennessee at with a village care group after their first malaria training.

Peace Corps volunteer Ian Hennessee at with a village care group after their first malaria training.

The “Plus” part of Ian’s PECADOM Plus project meets this need. It uses the PECADOM model to train health workers on home-based management of malaria, but trains them to go from compound to compound in order to treat the maximum number of malaria cases as early as possible. The work of the health workers is also facilitated by volunteer care group members who provide active surveillance in each of their compounds. This cooperation ensures that literally every member of the village is monitored for malaria and all symptomatic people receive testing and treatment.

This rainy season health workers are coming to the every individual in Ian’s health zone in Kedougou, no matter their educational level, financial status, distance from a health structure or ability to seek treatment. And, thanks to their proactive, comprehensive work, innumerable cases of severe malaria and future incidence have been and will be prevented.

View this video to learn more about the genesis of PECDOM Plus, the results of the first pilot project, and steps for moving forward.

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