Introduction: The last few years have witnessed rapid scaling-up of key malaria interventions in several African countries following increases in development assistance. However, there is only limited country-specific information on the health impact of expanded coverage of these interventions.
Methods: Paediatric admission data were assembled from 4 hospitals in Malawi reflecting different malaria ecologies. Trends in monthly clinical malaria admissions between January 2000 and December 2010 were analysed using time-series models controlling for covariates related to climate and service use to establish whether changes in admissions can be related to expanded coverage of interventions aimed at reducing malaria infection.
Results: In 3 of 4 sites there was an increase in clinical malaria admission rates. Results from time series models indicate a significant month-to-month increase in the mean clinical malaria admission rates at two hospitals (trend P<0.05). At these hospitals clinical malaria admissions had increased from 2000 by 41% to 100%. Comparison of changes in malaria risk and ITN coverage appear to correspond to a lack of disease declines over the period. Changes in intervention coverage within hospital catchments showed minimal increases in ITN coverage from <6% across all sites in 2000 to maximum of 33% at one hospital site by 2010. Additionally, malaria transmission intensity remained unchanged between 2000-2010 across all sites.
Discussion: Despite modest increases in coverage of measures to reduce infection there has been minimal changes in paediatric clinical malaria cases in four hospitals in Malawi. Studies across Africa are increasingly showing a mixed set of impact results and it is important to assemble more data from more sites to understand the wider implications of malaria funding investment. We also caution that impact surveillance should continue in areas where intervention coverage is increasing with time, for example Malawi, as decline may become evident within a period when coverage reaches optimal levels.