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Malaria: A Devastating Public Heath Concern

mosquito mosquito
Introduction: Malaria is a Global Problem requiring Global Solutions            


According to the World Health Organization, malaria affects approximately 300 million to 500 million people a year and kills between 1 and 3 million.  It is the main contributor to outpatient visits and hospitalizations in many African nations and an African child under the age of five dies of malaria every thirty seconds.  The lack of progress in the fight against malaria raises many salient points and warrants discussion and investigation.  There is an unprecidented lack of awareness of malaria versus other major health issues such as HIV/AIDS.  In many regions the number of malarial cases is increasing, while in others the numbers have not changed in decades. Malaria is a complex and vitally important issue and we should all take note of what malaria is and remember that it is not a disease inherently linked to the developing world, but one that we fought at home and are still fighting.  

Malaria is a treatable and preventable disease, as can be seen by countries like the US who successfully eradicated the disease over 50 years ago. 

Malaria is a global concern and it will take an immediate concerted global effort to beat this killer.  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, who first established malaria control operations in the United States declares that there is a constant risk that malaria transmission can once again become prevalent in the United States and they are actively funding ongoing domestic surveillance.  In addition, the CDC claims to actively participate in global efforts against malaria today.  Successful control and elimination of malaria in afflicted areas warrants a multifaceted approach based on previous success.  This is not an easy task, for the country side in Africa is varied, and as a vector borne disease, the method of action is linked to the environment that the vector lives in.  I advocate a course of action which includes global cooperation with active treatment and prevention measures, coupled with on-going research.  The tools to fight malaria have not changed much since they were used in the United States and the pathology of the disease is no different. 

Awareness today: 

While the methods have not changed much, the war against malaria has turned into a very different beast.  For U.S. citizens malaria has become a disease of Africa and a disease of poverty.  While there is increasing awareness of its prevalence and devastating effects, it is not a problem that we Americans have had to face in our lifetime.  Therefore, U.S. initiatives to fight malaria often take a back seat to more prevalent diseases in the US such as HIV/AIDS.  The recurrence of malaria in the United States is a possibility and as global actors, we have a responsibility to help eradicate this devastating disease that has plagued man kind for over 4,000 years and has in recent years seen some of its most devastating effects in Sub-Saharan Africa.  In response to this growing issue, a number of American actors have presented themselves as warriors in the battle against malaria. Three main US actors in the fight against malaria that have set themselves apart are the Gates Foundation, the CDC and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, funded by USAID.  The later two are in direct collaboration with the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), while the Gates Foundation is a self-determining actor.  

 This website is meant as an information source looking at malaria as a disease, the main US actors which are taking roles in the battle against malaria, and the controversy in general.  I will focus my controversy study on the way in which the US has chosen to engage and to not engage in the war against malaria.  I will ask the question of if the US has learned from past experience - are we making good decisions that are actually saving lives?  I will do this by looking at the different approaches that are taken by these actors.  I will highlight differences between treatment (which medications are used) and prevention (bed nets, pesticides, including DDT, a possible vaccine).  I will then look at how these different organizations use the media to sell investing in malaria eradication to the USpublic.  I will conclude by taking a stance on the combination of programs I think are most needed and will be most effective.  Ultimately, what is needed to combat malaria and what can we as citizens do? 

[1] picture of mosquito accessed on 4/14/06

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