Background: In 2011, Cameroon and its health partners distributed over eight million free long-lasting insecticide treated nets (LLINs) in an effort to reduce the significant morbidity and mortality burden of malaria in the country. A national communications campaign was launched in July 2011 to ensure that as the nets were delivered, they would be used consistently to close a net use gap: only 51.6% of adults and 63.4% of their children in households with at least one net were sleeping under nets before the distribution. Even in households with at least one net for every two people, over 35% of adults were not sleeping under a net. Malaria No More (MNM) adapted its signature NightWatch communications programme to fit within the coordinated "KO Palu" (Knock Out Malaria) national campaign. This study evaluates the impact of KO Palu NightWatch activities (that is, the subset of KO Palu-branded communications that were funded by MNM's NightWatch program) on bed net use.
Methods: Using national survey data collected at baseline (in March/April 2011, before the national LLIN distribution and KO Palu NightWatch launch) and post-intervention (March/April 2012), this study evaluates the impact of exposure to KO Palu NightWatch activities on last-night net use by Cameroonian adults and their children under five. First, a plausible case for causality was established by comparing net use in 2011 and 2012 and measuring exposure to KO Palu NightWatch; next, a propensity score matching (PSM) model was used to estimate the impact of exposure on net use by simulating a randomized control trial; finally, the model was tested for sensitivity to unmeasured factors.
Results: The PSM model estimated that among Cameroonians with at least one net in their household, exposure to KO Palu NightWatch activities was associated with a 6.6 percentage point increase in last-night net use among respondents (65.7% vs 59.1%, p < 0.05) and a 12.0 percentage point increase in last-night net use among respondents' children under five (79.6% vs 67.6%, p < 0.025). Sensitivity analysis suggests only a very small risk of bias from omitted factors influencing exposure and net use.
Conclusions: Extrapolating the results of the PSM model to the population of Cameroonians with access to at least one mosquito net, this analysis estimates that approximately 298,000 adults and over 221,000 of their children under five slept under a bed net because of the knowledge, motivation, and/or timely reminder provided by KO Palu NightWatch activities. The programme cost less than $0.16 per adult reached, and less than $1.62 per additional person protected by a net. The results suggest a strong role for mass media communication interventions in support of investments in malaria control commodities such as LLINs.