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The US President’s Malaria Initiative and under-5 child mortality in sub-Saharan Africa: A difference-in-differences analysis
Authors: Aleksandra Jakubowski, Sally C. Stearns, Margaret E. Kruk, Gustavo Angeles, and Harsha Thirumurthy
Source: PLOS Medicine, 14(6): e1002319.
Topic(s): Childhood mortality
Children under five
Country: Africa
  Multiple African Countries
Published: JUN 2017
Abstract: Background Despite substantial financial contributions by the United States President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) since 2006, no studies have carefully assessed how this program may have affected important population-level health outcomes. We utilized multiple publicly available data sources to evaluate the association between introduction of PMI and child mortality rates in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Methods and findings We used difference-in-differences analyses to compare trends in the primary outcome of under-5 mortality rates and secondary outcomes reflecting population coverage of malaria interventions in 19 PMI-recipient and 13 non-recipient countries between 1995 and 2014. The analyses controlled for presence and intensity of other large funding sources, individual and household characteristics, and country and year fixed effects. PMI program implementation was associated with a significant reduction in the annual risk of under-5 child mortality (adjusted risk ratio [RR] 0.84, 95% CI 0.74–0.96). Each dollar of per-capita PMI expenditures in a country, a measure of PMI intensity, was also associated with a reduction in child mortality (RR 0.86, 95% CI 0.78–0.93). We estimated that the under-5 mortality rate in PMI countries was reduced from 28.9 to 24.3 per 1,000 person-years. Population coverage of insecticide-treated nets increased by 8.34 percentage points (95% CI 0.86–15.83) and coverage of indoor residual spraying increased by 6.63 percentage points (95% CI 0.79–12.47) after PMI implementation. Per-capita PMI spending was also associated with a modest increase in artemisinin-based combination therapy coverage (3.56 percentage point increase, 95% CI -0.07–7.19), though this association was only marginally significant (p = 0.054). Our results were robust to several sensitivity analyses. Because our study design leaves open the possibility of unmeasured confounding, we cannot definitively interpret these results as causal. Conclusions PMI may have significantly contributed to reducing the burden of malaria in SSA and reducing the number of child deaths in the region. Introduction of PMI was associated with increased coverage of malaria prevention technologies, which are important mechanisms through which child mortality can be reduced. To our knowledge, this study is the first to assess the association between PMI and all-cause child mortality in SSA with the use of appropriate comparison groups and adjustments for regional trends in child mortality.