Text messages effective in treating malaria

Simple text message reminders to take medication can help malaria patients stick to their medication regimen, according to a new study by researchers at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and the non-profit Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA).

The study was published October 28, 2014 in PLOS ONE.

“When patients don’t complete their full medication regimen, diseases can develop resistance to treatment. And with infectious diseases like malaria, drug resistant diseases can spread to others,” lead author Julia Raifman, doctoral candidate in the Department of Global Health and Population (GHP) at HSPH, said in an October 28, 2014 New York Magazine article.

Despite major international efforts over decades, malaria continues to be a primary cause of death globally. An estimated 655,000 to 1.24 million people died of malaria in 2010; more than half were below age 5.

Other HSPH authors included Heather Lanthorn, a doctoral student in GHP, and Slawa Rokicki, SM ’12, now enrolled in the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Health Policy program. Senior author of the study was Güenther Fink, associate professor of international health economics at HSPH.

Read the New York Magazine article: Text Messages Are a Surprisingly Effective Anti-Malaria Measure

Study summary on the IPA website: Text Message Reminders for Malaria Treatment

Read the PLOS ONE study: The Impact of Text Message Reminders on Adherence to Antimalarial Treatment in Northern Ghana: A Randomized Trial

Read the IPA press release: New study shows text messaging could be useful tool in fight against malaria

Learn more

Mobilizing a revolution: How cellphones are transforming public health (Harvard Public Health Review)

Using cell phone data to curb the spread of malaria (HSPH press release)

Predicting Ebola’s spread using cell phone data (HSPH news)

Harvard Malaria Initiative