Family Medicine is Key to Beating Malaria

Mark MarinoBlog, Malawi, Medicine

Today marks World Malaria Day, a day to highlight efforts to reduce malaria and to focus on the need for continued investment and commitment for prevention and control. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “the global response to malaria is at a crossroads. After an unprecedented period of success in malaria control, progress has stalled.” At Seed, we understand that doctors, nurses, midwives and other health workers are critical to keeping curable diseases like malaria under control. Health professionals are on the front lines in communities combatting the spread of this disease. It takes a village to make progress and implement change—from individuals to corporations—all of us must come together to put an end to malaria. Funding and research is needed, and thanks to a partnership with the ExxonMobil Foundation, Seed Global Health has been able to strengthen and build the capacity of health care professionals tackling malaria in areas like Liberia, Malawi, Swaziland, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Health professionals recognize that diseases like malaria cannot be prevented without a comprehensive, people-centered approach to care. Family medicine in particular focuses on the social determinants of health—how the patient’s home and surroundings affect their health. Family doctors are also essential to delivering the best health outcomes at the lowest cost. In some countries where chronic diseases are the principal health burden, family doctors manage 95% of the health problems while absorbing only 5% of the health budget.

Seed Global Health partnered with the University of Malawi College of Medicine to establish the first family medicine training program in the country. Today, there are two clinical training sites in Malawi, where each year we place family medicine physician educators to train the country’s next generation of physicians.

Kaso Banda is one of those future doctors. He is a fourth-year medical student who studies family medicine at one of the training sites at the University of Malawi College of Medicine. In a recent interview, he highlighted that “when it comes to family medicine, you have to take time to understand where that person is coming from…you’re not just trying to treat that particular illness, but you are also trying to promote health.” Kaso sees that part of his job is to educate his patients. For example, he often talks to his patients about the importance of having a good quality bed net at home to protect them from mosquitos.

In 2016, there were 216 million cases of malaria worldwide. This year, WHO is calling on nations to further invest in the tools that prevent, diagnose, and treat this disease. A key piece of that investment must also be in the health workers that will use those tools, treat patients and educate families and communities about how to prevent the spread of malaria. At Seed, we know that health care starts with people, and investing in people is essential to beating malaria.

Click here to see a video of Kaso reflecting on his work!