Background: Insecticide-treated nets are a key intervention for malaria prevention. While mass distribution can rapidly scale up ITN coverage, multiple channels may be needed to sustain high levels of ITN access and ownership. In Ghana's Eastern Region, a continuous ITN distribution pilot, started in October 2012, 18-24 months after a mass campaign. The pilot distributed ITNs through antenatal care services (ANC), child welfare clinic services (CWC) through the Expanded Programme on Immunization, and to students in two classes of primary schools.
Methods: ITN ownership and access were evaluated through two cross-sectional surveys, conducted at baseline in April 2012, 11-15 months after the mass campaign, and at endline in December 2013, after 1 year of continuous distribution. A representative sample was obtained using a multi-stage cluster sampling design. Household heads were interviewed using a structured questionnaire.
Results: Household ownership of at least one ITN was 91.3% (95% CI 88.8-93.9) at baseline and was not statistically significant at endline 18 months later at 88.3% (95% CI 84.9-91.0) (p = 0.10). Ownership of at least 1 ITN per two people significantly decreased from 51.3% (95% CI 47.1-55.4) to 40.2% (95% CI 36.4-44.6) (p < 0.01). Population access to an ITN within the household also significantly decreased from 74.5% (95% CI 71.2-77.7) at baseline to 66.4% (95% CI 62.9-69.9) at endline (p < 0.01). The concentration index score for any CD channel was slightly positive (0.10; 95% CI 0.04-0.15).
Conclusion: Thirty-one months after the mass campaign, the 15 months of continuous distribution activities had maintained levels of household ownership at least one ITN, but household ownership of one ITN for every two people and population access to ITN had declined. Ownership and access were higher with the CD programme than without. However, the number of ITNs delivered via ANC, CWC and two primary school classes were insufficient to sustain coverage targets. Future programmes should implement continuous distribution strategies fully within 1 year after a campaign or widen eligibility criteria (such as increase the number of classes) during the first year of implementation to make up for programme delays.
Keywords: ANC distribution; Continuous distribution; EPI distribution; ITN; ITN distribution; Malaria; School distribution.