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MALARIA: Bet-net use in childhood increases school completion

May 15, 2023
MALARIA: Bet-net use in childhood increases school completion
A child captured inside a treated mosquito bed net at one of Ifakara study sites. PHOTO | IFAKARA/KMC File

After conducting a long-term study involving over 5,000 participants in rural Tanzania, Ifakara Health Institute and partner institutions have found that early-life use of bed nets is strongly linked with increased school completion.

This was confirmed after analyzing data from a 22-year study investigating the associations between early-life insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) use and educational attainment, fertility and marriage in early adulthood.

The findings were recently published in the Malaria journal recently with results suggesting that increased use of treated nets during early childhood significantly increases the likelihood of completing both primary school and 4 years of secondary school for both men and women.

Based on these findings, the scientists have asserted that ITNs use during early childhood may have long-term positive effects on educational attainment in Tanzania.

The study, titled “Associations between the use of insecticide-treated nets in early childhood and educational outcomes, marriage and child-bearing in early adulthood: evidence from a 22-year prospective cohort study in Tanzania” used data from a two-decade study implemented between 1997 and 2019 in 25 villages within Ulanga and Kilombero districts in Tanzania.

Contributing authors include Sigilbert Mrema and Fredros Okumu from Ifakara Health Institute along with Joanna Schellenberg from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), UK and Günther Fink from Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (SwissTPH), Switzerland.

In highlighting the aim of this groundbreaking study, the researchers wrote, “This paper reports results from a 22-year prospective cohort study in rural south-eastern Tanzania, to estimate the associations between the use of ITNs in early childhood and socio-demographic development indicators, including educational attainment, marital status and having children, in young adult men and women.”

Previously, these researchers also contributed to a similar long-term study that aimed to investigate malaria control in a high-transmission setting by looking at the survival benefit from early-life use of treated nets. The study was titled, “Mosquito Net Use in Early Childhood and Survival to Adulthood in Tanzania.

>> More about the study here: https://www.ihi.or.tz/our-news/57/groundbreaking-study-finds-malaria-control-in-young-children-saves-lives-into-adulthood/

Sigilbert Mrema, Research Scientist with Ifakara stressed the importance of the long-term study saying, “This is a continuation of a similar study my colleagues and I did whereby we looked at how mosquito net use is linked in early childhood and survival to adulthood. However, for this particular study, we looked into education as a major aspect and later on, we will investigate other aspects as well.”

>> Link to full publication: https://malariajournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12936-023-04560-z#Sec10