Background: A review of the barriers to mosquito net use in malaria-endemic countries has yet to be presented in the published literature despite considerable research interest in this area. This paper partly addresses this gap by reviewing one component of the evidence base; namely, published research pertaining to self-reported reasons for not using a mosquito net among net 'owning' individuals. It was anticipated that the review findings would potentially inform an intervention or range of interventions best suited to promoting greater net use amongst this group.
Method: Studies were sought via a search of the Medline database. The key inclusion criteria were: that study participants could be identified as owning a mosquito net or having a mosquito net available for use; that these participants on one or more occasions were identified or self-reported as not using the mosquito net; and that reasons for not using the mosquito net were reported. Studies meeting these criteria were included irrespective of mosquito net type.
Results: A total of 22 studies met the inclusion criteria. Discomfort, primarily due to heat, and perceived (low) mosquito density were the most widely identified reason for non-use. Social factors, such as sleeping elsewhere, or not sleeping at all, were also reported across studies as were technical factors related to mosquito net use (i.e. not being able to hang a mosquito net or finding it inconvenient to hang) and the temporary unavailability of a normally available mosquito net (primarily due to someone else using it). However, confidence in the reported findings was substantially undermined by a range of methodological limitations and a dearth of dedicated research investigation.
Conclusions: The findings of this review should be considered highly tentative until such time as greater quantities of dedicated, well-designed and reported studies are available in the published literature. The current evidence-base is not sufficient in scope or quality to reliably inform mosquito net promoting interventions or campaigns targeted at individuals who own, but do not (reliably) use, mosquito nets.