Research shows that health providers who are trained to use malaria rapid diagnostic tests (RDT) continue to prescribe costly malaria medicines to people who do not have the illness. Despite their training, the health workers continue to make these pricey mistakes, and rates of using the rapid diagnostic tests are under 50 percent.
“This study confirms that treating malaria based on signs and symptoms alone remains an ingrained behavior that is difficult to change,” Professor Obinna Onwujekwe from the University of Nigeria, lead author of the study, said. “If governments want rapid diagnostic tests to effectively target the use of ACTs and avoid their misuse, then they must be supported by varieties of intensive and sustained interventions aimed at changing the behavior of health providers and the expectations of patients and their families.”
The study involved approximately 5,000 participants living in 40 communities. They were from a range of pharmacies, public health facilities and drug stores within Enugu, a state in Nigeria.
“Many studies have investigated the performance of RDTs in ideal settings,” Dr. Virginia Wiseman, health economist at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and principal investigator in the study, said. “With this research we aimed to see how our interventions influenced behaviors, according to the different health services and contexts. We have shown that training alone is not enough to realize the full potential of a rapid diagnostic test. We must continue to explore alternative ways of encouraging providers to deliver appropriate treatment and avoid the misuse of valuable medicines especially in the private sector where we found levels of testing to be lowest.”
Further details are available in PLOS ONE.