Housing, malaria, and Cochrane

Vector-borne diseases account for more than 17% of all infectious diseases and cause more than 700000 deaths annually (WHO 2017). Many of these deaths may be preventable through effective mosquito control, and simple house modifications may contribute to minimising the number of infectious bites.

In April 2019, Cochrane Infectious Diseases Group (CIDG) Research Assistant Joanna Furnival-Adams, and Partnership for Increasing the Impact of Vector Control (PIIVeC) Research Fellow, Evelyn Olanga, attended the 2nd BOVA (Building-Out Vector-borne diseAses) open network meeting at UN-HABITAT headquarters, Nairobi. BOVA is an interdisciplinary organisation that works towards improving the built environment to reduce the burden of vector-borne diseases. The meeting attracted individuals from a range of disciplines and aimed to encourage innovation, communication and collaboration between these disciplines, particularly between the built environment and public health sectors.

Joanna and Evelyn presented a poster on how Cochrane Reviews can be used to inform vector-borne disease control policy, referring to their review on housing interventions for malaria prevention, which is in progress. There has recently been a push for vector control policy to be evidence-based, and Cochrane has played an important role in informing the first formal WHO malaria vector control guidelines, published in February 2019. There is substantial anecdotal evidence for malaria prevention through improved housing, but the availability of results from well-conducted experimental studies is limited. A thorough review of the available evidence is therefore well anticipated and will be used to inform future policy decisions. This event was a great opportunity to discuss ways in which the evidence base for housing can be improved.

On the first day of the conference, presentations took place from a mix of entomologists, public health specialists, architects, entrepreneurs, and economists. Talks on the current threat of vector-borne diseases and the changing housing environment, particularly in in sub-Saharan Africa, were followed by a series of talks from entrepreneurs sharing innovations that have been introduced in various parts of the world. Highlights included a recycling initiative in Mexico aiming to reduce breeding sites for dengue vectors, and a new low-cost house design using bamboo that has shown success in parts of South East Asia.

On the second day, the group split into five workshops focusing on the following topics: basic research; strategic thinking/advocacy; new tools and approaches; economics and scale-up; and community-based approaches. It was great to discuss future challenges and opportunities in these topics amongst such a diverse group.

The meeting provided a unique opportunity to establish new connections between individuals working in different disciplines.

The published protocol for the Cochrane review 'Housing interventions for preventing malaria' can be found here: https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD013398/full

 Joanna Furnival-Adams and the CIDG editorial base are supported by the Research, Evidence and Development Initiative (READ-It) project. READ-It (project number 300342-104) is funded by UK aid from the UK government; however, the views expressed do not necessarily reflect the UK government’s official policies.