The use of routine health facility data for micro-stratification of malaria risk in mainland Tanzania

Thawer SG, Golumbeanu M, Munisi K, Aaron S, Chacky F, Lazaro S, Mohamed A, Kisoka N, Lengeler C, Molteni F, Ross A, Snow RW, Pothin E
Malar J. 2022;21

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BACKGROUND: Current efforts to estimate the spatially diverse malaria burden in malaria-endemic countries largely involve the use of epidemiological modelling methods for describing temporal and spatial heterogeneity using sparse interpolated prevalence data from periodic cross-sectional surveys. However, more malaria-endemic countries are beginning to consider local routine data for this purpose. Nevertheless, routine information from health facilities (HFs) remains widely under-utilized despite improved data quality, including increased access to diagnostic testing and the adoption of the electronic District Health Information System (DHIS2). This paper describes the process undertaken in mainland Tanzania using routine data to develop a high-resolution, micro-stratification risk map to guide future malaria control efforts. METHODS: Combinations of various routine malariometric indicators collected from 7098 HFs were assembled across 3065 wards of mainland Tanzania for the period 2017-2019. The reported council-level prevalence classification in school children aged 5-16 years (PfPR(5-16)) was used as a benchmark to define four malaria risk groups. These groups were subsequently used to derive cut-offs for the routine indicators by minimizing misclassifications and maximizing overall agreement. The derived-cutoffs were converted into numbered scores and summed across the three indicators to allocate wards into their overall risk stratum. RESULTS: Of 3065 wards, 353 were assigned to the very low strata (10.5% of the total ward population), 717 to the low strata (28.6% of the population), 525 to the moderate strata (16.2% of the population), and 1470 to the high strata (39.8% of the population). The resulting micro-stratification revealed malaria risk heterogeneity within 80 councils and identified wards that would benefit from community-level focal interventions, such as community-case management, indoor residual spraying and larviciding. CONCLUSION: The micro-stratification approach employed is simple and pragmatic, with potential to be easily adopted by the malaria programme in Tanzania. It makes use of available routine data that are rich in spatial resolution and that can be readily accessed allowing for a stratification of malaria risk below the council level. Such a framework is optimal for supporting evidence-based, decentralized malaria control planning, thereby improving the effectiveness and allocation efficiency of malaria control interventions.