Large-scale trials of insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) throughout Sub-Saharan Africa demonstrated that they reduce child mortality in malaria endemic communities. These encouraging results have generated interest in ITNs as a viable malaria control strategy in many malaria endemic countries. However, regular use of ITNs under routine or non-project conditions has been beset with several problems. This paper explores how local community knowledge about malaria acts as a barrier to the use of ITNs in three settings. We employed structured formal observation and a range of interviewing techniques which included informal interviews, focus group discussions, semi-structured in-depth interviews, and structured survey interviewing. People recognize the term 'malaria' but have limited biomedical knowledge of the disease, including its aetiology, the role of the vector, and host response. Convulsions and anaemia are rarely linked to malaria. The people acknowledged a role for ITNs in nuisance reduction, but not for malaria prevention.
Tropical Medicine & International Health (2005) 10( 4) 366-378 [doi:10.1111/j.1365-3156.2005.01361.x]