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Dr. Kent Campbell, director of the Malaria Control Program at PATH, addresses the briefing. Photo: PSI/Jackie Presutti.

Working with partners in the public and private sectors over the past five years, the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) has made substantial gains in the fight against malaria, a disease that still claims a child’s life every 60 seconds. To sustain momentum and progress, experts told a Congressional briefing hosted by PATH and our partners, bipartisan political support and continued funding for malaria-control programs are imperative.

The briefing, which took place June 5 in Washington, DC, examined a recent external evaluation of the initiative. The briefing was hosted by PATH with the support of five partners—PSI, World Vision, Malaria No More, the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, and Nothing But Nets—in cooperation with the Congressional Caucus on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases and the Congressional Global Health Caucus.

A solid start

Dr. Jon Simon, director of Boston University’s Center for Global Health and Development and leader of the external evaluation of the intiative, called attention to the profound impact the initiative has had in reducing malaria-related deaths in 15 focus countries. He credited the initiative’s clear direction, technical focus, and strong leadership for its early success.

Dr. Kent Campbell, director of the Malaria Control Program at PATH, discussed the importance of prevention measures, such as wide use of insecticide-treated bed nets, in lowering the number of malaria-related deaths in sub-Saharan Africa. Elena Olivi, technical advisor in the malaria and child survival department at PSI, agreed with Dr. Campbell’s remarks, adding that insecticide-treated bed nets are “perhaps the greatest public health achievement of the past decade.”

Rear Admiral R. Timothy Ziemer, the US global malaria coordinator at PMI, wrapped up the panel by assuring Congressional attendees and partners that the initiative will strive to implement the evaluation’s recommendations in the future.

Keeping up the fight

While the overall mood was celebratory, members of the panel cautioned that if scientific, financial, and political challenges in the malaria fight are not addressed, the incredible progress made so far could be compromised.

Dr. Simon noted a “business-as-usual” approach won’t be enough to sustain the gains. Panel participants pointed out that similar progress against malaria has been made in the past, only to backslide when funding was cut. In addition to maintaining financial and political support and strong leadership, panel members stressed that finding innovative ways to maximize the impact of malaria interventions and continued investment in new tools like vaccines will be pivotal for long-term success.

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Posted June 07, 2012.