Developing the Social Science of Malaria Control for Areas of High Transmission

barry photo burkina

Developing the Social Science of Malaria Control for Areas of High Transmission’ is a collaboration between the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society (InSIS) and the Institut de Recherche en Sciences de la Santé (IRSS - Bobo-Dioulasso) in Burkina Faso, supported by an AfOx Research Development award.

Over the past two decades, many countries in sub-Saharan Africa have achieved significant reductions in the mortality and morbidity associated with malaria, primarily as a result of improvements in their national health systems, and the wider availability of diagnostics, pharmaceutical treatments, and insecticide-treated bed nets.

Recently, however, this positive trend has been interrupted, and in some cases reversed. The reasons are complex and context-specific, but they include genetic and behavioural changes in the mosquito vector (leading to growing tolerance of insecticides, for example, or greater predisposition to biting outdoors or in the day-time) and a host of social, political and environmental factors that limit the effectiveness of traditional malaria control tools. These changes include human migration and displacement, landscape modifications associated with agriculture and mineral extraction, or civil unrest.

Tackling malaria in areas of high or recalcitrant transmission requires novel interventions, often targeting highly specific socio-ecological contexts, and robust participation by local communities and key stakeholders.

Social scientists have played a significant role in the design and evaluation of malaria control interventions in the past. They carried out critical research for the development of bed net distribution programmes, explored public perceptions of malaria diagnosis and treatment, or identified patterns of individual and collective action associated with greater exposure to mosquito bites.

This new AfOx Research Development project seeks to add to this repertoire of social science research strategies. The work will focus on three areas of social science innovation: 1) malaria transmission in artisanal mining areas; 2) processes of public participation adapted to the evaluation of modified malaria mosquito vectors; and 3) governance mechanisms to strengthen the assessment of malaria control options by national malaria control programmes.

For more details, contact Javier Lezaun (


Contained facility to study mosquito swarming behaviour. Bama, Burkina Faso (photo by Javier Lezaun)