Malaria reduced
Written by Christelle Lepers   
Wednesday, 14 October 2009

ImageMalaria in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu has been dramatically reduced through an effective control strategy, a major regional meeting in Tonga has heard.

Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) public health director Bill Parr told the 39th meeting of the Committee of the Representatives of Governments and Administrations (CRGA) of SPC in Nuku’alofa this week there were 50,000 fewer cases of Malaria in the Solomon Islands in 2008 compared with 2003.

He said an effective prevention and control strategy comprising of long lasting insecticide treated bednet distribution, focal point indoor residual spraying, early diagnosis and treatment and active case detection has had dramatic impact on the annual incidence rate of malaria in both the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

The annual incidence rate (which is a measure of number of confirmed cases of malaria per 1,000 population) has been reduced from 198 /1,000 to 84/1,000 in the Solomon Islands over the five year period ending December 2008, while in Vanuatu it has decreased from 74/1,000 to 14 / 1,000 in the same period.

Mr Parr said both countries have now been able to move from control to pilot elimination as a result of the success of the Global Fund financed programs implemented co-jointly by both countries’ national vector borne disease control programs, WHO and SPC. The capacity of both countries to scale up interventions has further been improved as a result of AusAID’s support to the national malaria strategies, particularly in the area of elimination and treatment.

The measures in place resulted in a significant decrease in the number of confirmed malaria cases in the Solomon Islands compared to 2003, easing the burden on the national health systems and budget, and reducing production time lost due to malaria, which is a contributing factor that constrains economic growth.

Mr Parr reported on the full range of SPC’s work in addressing health problems in the region, for which delegates congratulated SPC. Responding to the needs of Pacific Islands countries and territories and recognising that there are wide social determinants in health, SPC’s health division is modifying its strategy from a disease-based approach to a whole-of-health approach. A particular emphasis will be on strengthening health systems in Pacific Islands countries and territories (PICTs).  

He said rates of sexually transmitted infections in the Pacific remain as high as they were in 2004 and a comprehensive review of the strategies was being commissioned. A programme to prevent mother to child transmission had substantially reduced the risk of an unborn child being infected with HIV from his/her mother during delivery.

The SPC public health team had responded to the H1N1 pandemic in 2009 in partnership with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and played a critical role in providing technical advice, services and capacity building to Pacific Islands countries and territories (PICTs). It was also involved in the response to the recent cholera outbreak in PNG.

TB control supported PICT’s in implementing the regional Stop TB strategy in close collaboration with WHO and CDC. The HIV and STI section was responsible for coordinating and monitoring the implementation of the Pacific Regional strategy on HIV and STI’s in close collaboration with multiple other agencies and countries.

Mr Parr noted the very high prevalence of noncommunicable disease risk conditions – diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity – being among the highest in the world. Hypertension is the most common condition leading up to cardiac arrest which is the leading cause of death in the Pacific. The risk factors of smoking, alcohol, low levels of physical activity and consumption of fruits and vegetables were the perfect recipe for NCDs.

The Healthy Pacific Lifestyle (HPL) section at SPC provides an integrated approach in the promotion of tobacco and alcohol control, physical activity and good nutrition. The SPC-WHO joint 2-1-22 (two organisations, one programme, 22 countries) approach funded by AusAID and NZAID was being implemented under the Pacific Framework for the prevention and control of NCDs.

In January to June 2009, grants amounting to 23 million CPF (approximately US$270,000) were provided to three PICT’s in support of NCDs national strategy implementation. This is expected to be rolled out to an additional five PICT’s by November.

He said SPC acknowledged that tackling NCDs required a whole of society approach. This was followed through in PHD’s collaboration with other SPC divisions on the Pacific Food Security working group including WHO, other UN agencies, the PI Forum Secretariat and food industry representatives. It will feed into a high-level, multi-sectoral regional food security summit in early 2010.

Meanwhile, relatively neglected diseases in the Pacific were dengue and other vector borne diseases like leptospirosis (except malaria), rheumatic heart disease, mental health and environmental health. There were also funding gaps for secondary prevention for noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes, cancer and high blood pressure.

Gaps were also emerging in maternal and child health, sexual and reproductive health, on the consequences for health of climate change, urbanisation and poor housing, and on infant diarrhoea, water and sanitation.


For more information, please contact:
Richard Thomson
Phone: +676 26128
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