Medical Entomology Research and Training Unit-Guatemala, Division of Parasitic Diseases, National Center for Infectious Diseases, and National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Servicio Nacional de Erradicacion de la Malaria, Division de Enfermedades Metaxenicas, Ministerio de Salud Publica y Asistencia Social, Centro de Investigaciones de Enfermedades Tropicales, Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, Ministerio de Salud Publica y Asistencia Social, Atlanta, Georgia, Guatemala
In most rural areas of Latin America, malaria surveillance and treatment is carried out by a network of unpaid village malaria workers, known as Volunteer Collaborators, who are trained and supervised by the National Malaria Service. To identify ways in which the performance of these volunteer workers could be improved and to test changes that would make the Volunteer Collaborator Networks (VCNs) a more attractive model for community participation in malaria case detection and treatment in other regions, we tested a series of modifications in the VCN of Guatemala. These modifications included improved methods for selecting, supervising, and evaluating the volunteer workers and for collecting blood smears and reporting results, and the use of volunteer workers, known as Volunteer Medicators, who administered presumptive antimalarial therapy without taking a blood smear. A cost-effectiveness analysis of the modified VCN was also carried out. Two years after the modifications were introduced, Volunteer Collaborators identified nearly twice as high a percentage (33% versus 17%) of patients with suspected malaria in their villages. Delays in examining blood smears were reduced from 23 days to 11 days and delays from blood smear examination to curative treatment were reduced from 21 days to 7 days. The Volunteer Medicators identified and treated only a slightly higher percentage of patients than the Volunteer Collaborators (36% versus 33%). However, the cost of maintaining a network of Volunteer Medicators ($0.61 per patient treated) was much lower than the traditional VCN ($2.45) or the modified VCN ($1.85). Thus, with a few, simple and relatively inexpensive modifications, the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of Volunteer Collaborators can be markedly improved. Additionally, the VCN can be modified to make it a more suitable model for community-based malaria control and surveillance networks in other malarious areas of the world, which differ in terms of their level of endemicity, the goals of the malaria program, or the available health care infrastructure.