Feasibility and Effectiveness of mHealth for Mobilizing Households for Indoor Residual Spraying to Prevent Malaria: A Case Study in Mali

Glob Health Sci Pract. 2016 Jun 27;4(2):222-37. doi: 10.9745/GHSP-D-15-00381. Print 2016 Jun 20.


Components of mHealth are increasingly being added to development interventions worldwide. A particular case of interest is in Mali where the U.S. President's Malaria Initiative (PMI) Africa Indoor Residual Spraying (AIRS) Project piloted a mobile mass-messaging service in Koulikoro District in August 2014 to determine whether voice and/or text messages received on cell phones could effectively replace door-to-door mobilization for an indoor residual spraying (IRS) campaign. To measure the pilot's effectiveness, we evaluated structure preparedness (all household and food items removed) in 3 pilot intervention villages compared with 3 villages prepared for spray through door-to-door mobilization that was modified by incorporating town hall meetings and radio spots. Structure preparedness was significantly lower in households mobilized through the mobile-messaging approach compared with the door-to-door approach (49% vs. 75%, respectively; P = .03). Spray coverage of targeted households also was significantly lower among the mobile-messaging villages than the door-to-door mobilization villages (86% vs. 96%, respectively; P = .02). The mobile-messaging approach, at US$8.62 per structure prepared, was both more costly and less effective than the door-to-door approach at US$1.08 per structure prepared. While literacy and familiarity with technology were major obstacles, it also became clear that by removing the face-to-face interactions between mobilizers and household residents, individuals were not as trusting or understanding of the mobilization messages. These residents felt it was easier to ignore a text or voice message than to ignore a mobilizer who could provide reassurances and preparation support. In addition, men often received the mobile messages, as they typically owned the mobile phones, while women-who were more likely to be at home at the time of spray-usually interacted with the door-to-door mobilizers. Future attempts at using mHealth approaches for similar IRS mobilization efforts in Mali should be done in a way that combines mHealth tools with more common human-based interventions, rather than as a stand-alone approach, and should be designed with a gender lens in mind. The choice of software used for mass messaging should also be considered to find a local option that is both less expensive and perhaps more attuned to the local context than a U.S.-based software solution.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Cell Phone*
  • Communication*
  • Comprehension
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Family Characteristics*
  • Government Programs
  • Humans
  • Information Literacy
  • Insecticides
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Malaria / prevention & control*
  • Mosquito Control*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Program Evaluation
  • Telemedicine*
  • Text Messaging*
  • Trust


  • Insecticides