BACKGROUND: The Timor-Leste Ministry of Health has recently finalized the National Malaria Control Strategy for 2010-2020. A key component of this roadmap is to provide universal national coverage with long-lasting insecticide-treated nets (LLINs) in support of achieving the primary goal of reducing both morbidity and mortality from malaria by 30% in the first three years, followed by a further reduction of 20% by end of the programme cycle in 2020 1. The strategic plan calls for this target to be supported by a comprehensive information, education and communication (IEC) programme; however, there is limited prior research into household and personal usage patterns to assist in the creation of targeted, effective, and socio-culturally specific behaviour change materials.
METHODS: Nine separate focus group discussions (FGDs) were carried out in Dili, Manatuto, and Covalima districts, Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, in July 2010.These focus groups primarily explored themes of perceived malaria risk, causes of malaria, net usage patterns within families, barriers to correct and consistent usage, and the daily experience of users (both male and female) in households with at least one net. Comprehensive qualitative analysis utilized open source analysis software.
RESULTS: The primary determinants of net usage were a widespread perception that nets could or should only be used by pregnant women and young children, and the availability of sufficient sleeping space under a limited number of nets within households. Both nuisance biting and disease prevention were commonly cited as primary motivations for usage, while seasonality was not a significant factor. Long-term net durability and ease of hanging were seen as key attributes in net design preference. Very frequent washing cycles were common, potentially degrading net effectiveness. Finally, extensive re-purposing of nets (fishing, protecting crops) was both reported and observed, and may significantly decrease availability of nighttime sleeping space for all family members if distributed nets do not remain within the household.
CONCLUSIONS: Emphasizing that net usage is acceptable and important for all family members regardless of age or gender, and addressing the complex behavioural economics of alternative net usages could have significant impacts on malaria control efforts in Timor-Leste, as the country's programmes make progress towards universal net coverage.
BioMed Central, 2011. Vol. 10, 199- p.