Putting Programmers into Programs: modelling and capacity building in malaria control programs

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There is no “one size fits all” intervention for malaria elimination due to the spectrum of available sub-optimal interventions acting at different stages of the parasite life-cycle and the heterogeneous transmission landscape. Every district of every country has its own unique challenges, conditions and solutions. Mathematical modelling is the best available approach for combining the many interacting factors that must be considered. This approach would increase the cost-effectiveness of a national elimination strategy if it were integrated into the national malaria control program. However, mathematical modelling is a relatively new discipline and has yet to reach many of the countries where malaria elimination is being implemented. A project is underway to simultaneously develop bespoke mathematical models for the Asian setting and train a new group of mathematical modelers embedded within their national malaria control programs. These modelers have formed a network where expertise and model programs are shared freely within the group. Through their national modelers, national control programs are able to access the full suite of models developed by the project staff and modify them to answer nationally relevant questions.

More about the speaker:
Lisa White is currently the head of an Oxford University mathematical and economic modelling (MAEMOD) group based in Thailand at the Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit whose research focus is on tropical infections and primarily malaria. MAEMOD coordinates an international network of infectious disease modellers and modelling research beneficiaries working in the Tropics (TDModNet). Her work on malaria combines within and between host infection models with multi-strain/species modelling to consider the characterisation, emergence and spread of antimalarial drug resistance and its containment. She has strong collaborative links with the National Center of Malaria Control (CNM) in Cambodia and members of the WHO concerned with the containment of artemisinin resistance in its focus in Western Cambodia. She is also an active member of Malaria Eradication Research Agenda (malERA) an international consultative initiative aimed at identifying current knowledge gaps and new tools needed for malaria eradication. She is now developing mathematical models to be used as tools for national and international malaria elimination strategy design in the Asia-Pacific region. A large part of this approach will be to build capacity in the region for performing mathematical modelling research and for policymakers to access these new human resources effectively.