Unlicensed medical practitioners in tribal dominated rural areas of central India: Bottleneck in malaria elimination

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Background: In India, Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) deliver services for diagnosis and treatment of malaria, although unlicensed medical practitioners (UMPs) (informal health providers) are most preferred in communities. A cross sectional survey was conducted to: (i) assess knowledge and treatment-seeking practices in the community, and (ii) explore the diagnosis and treatment practices related to malaria of UMPs working in rural and tribal-dominated high malaria endemic areas of central India, and whether they adhere to the national guidelines. Methods: A multi-stage sampling method and survey technique was adopted. Heads of the households and UMPs were interviewed using a structured interview schedule to assess knowledge and malaria treatment practices. Results: Knowledge regarding malaria symptoms was generally accurate, but misconceptions emerged related to malaria transmission and mosquito breeding places. Modern preventive measures were poorly accessed by the households. UMPs were the most preferred health providers (49%) and the first choice in households for seeking treatment. UMPs typically lacked knowledge of the names of malaria parasite species and species-specific diagnosis and treatment. Further, irrational use of anti-malarial drugs was common. Conclusions: UMPs were the most preferred type of health care providers in rural communities where health infrastructure is poor. The study suggests enhancing training of UMPs on national guidelines for malaria diagnosis and treatment to strengthen their ability to contribute to achievement of India's malaria elimination goals.




Singh, M. P., Chand, S. K., Saha, K. B., Singh, N., Dhiman, R. C., & Sabin, L. L. (2020). Unlicensed medical practitioners in tribal dominated rural areas of central India: Bottleneck in malaria elimination. Malaria Journal, 19(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12936-020-3109-z

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