World Health Day 2014: Protect yourself from vector-borne diseases
On World Health Day, celebrated on 7 April every year, the World Health Organization draws attention to a public health problem of global proportions and what needs to be done to address it. The date of 7 April marks the anniversary of the founding of WHO in 1948.
The theme for World Health Day 2014 is vector-borne diseases.
More than half the world’s population is at risk of these diseases, which include malaria, dengue, leishmaniasis and yellow fever. The poorest people in the world are the most affected. However, environmental change and the rapid and increased movement of people and goods around the world means that the risks are now much more widespread. The World Health Day 2014 campaign focuses on vectors, the diseases they cause and simple precautions we can all take to protect ourselves and our families.
What are vectors?
Vectors are small organisms such as mosquitoes, bugs, ticks, flies and freshwater snails, that carry disease from person to person and place to place.
The campaign aims to raise awareness about the threat posed by vectors and vector-borne diseases and to stimulate families and communities to take action to protect themselves.
- Families living in areas where diseases are transmitted by vectors know how to protect themselves.
- Travellers know how to protect themselves from vectors and vector-borne diseases when travelling to countries where these pose a health threat.
- In countries where vector-borne diseases are a public health problem, ministries of health put in place measures to improve the protection of their populations.
- In countries where vector-borne diseases are an emerging threat, health authorities work with environmental and relevant authorities locally and in neighbouring countries to improve integrated surveillance of vectors and to take measures to prevent their spread and proliferation.
How public health stakeholders can tackle vector-borne diseases
Effective, long-term vector control and disease elimination calls for strong, well-funded national control programmes, comprehensive national and regional strategies, supported by close collaboration among partners in the global public health community. Sustainable programmes require technical guidelines that set out clear standard operating procedures, and are well managed with efficient logistics, monitoring and evaluation.
Integrated vector management
WHO promotes integrated vector management as the best approach to strengthen vector control in a way that it is compatible with national health systems. Key elements of integrated vector management include:
- evidence-based decision-making based on research
- robust methods of monitoring and evaluation
- close collaboration between the health sector and other government sectors, as well as the private sector
- optimal use of human and financial resources through a multi-disease control approach
- use of a range of interventions, often in combination and synergistically
- planning and decision-making delegated to the lowest possible administrative level
- advocacy and social mobilization to promote vector control in relevant agencies, organizations and civil society
- a public health regulatory and legislative framework
- engagement with local communities to empower them and ensure sustainability of programmes
- increased capacity-building at national and local levels based on a situational analysis
For example, in view of the overlapping geographical distribution of malaria and lymphatic filariasis in large areas of Africa, Asia and the Americas, and the fact that Anopheles mosquitoes transmit both diseases, WHO recommends the use of integrated vector management in:
- areas co-endemic for malaria and lymphatic filariasis; and
- areas in which the vectors of the two diseases are affected by the same vector control interventions.
WHO also recommends integrated control of the Aedes mosquito vectors of dengue in some urban areas with control of Culex quinquefasciatus, an important urban vector of lymphatic filariasis.
- commit at all levels (national, regional and local) to adopt and implement effective vector control policies.
- embed vector control in comprehensive disease control strategies.
- rationalize the use of resources and structures through integrated vector management.
- strengthen regulatory and legislative controls for vector control tools and methods.
Ministries of health
- improve surveillance and monitoring of vector-borne diseases.
- adopt a multi-disease approach i.e. integrate interventions to control and prevent vector-borne diseases with other disease interventions.
- develop and implement comprehensive insecticide resistance management strategies and ensure timely resistance monitoring.
- collaborate with other government sectors.
Ministries of the environment
- consider the impact on vectors for all development projects, including irrigation, hydroelectric dam construction, road building, forest clearance, housing development and industrial expansion.
- improve access to safe drinking-water and adequate sanitation to reduce contact with water infected with Schistoma parasite.
Ministries of education
- support awareness raising and behaviour change campaigns.
- develop school-based curricula, actively encouraging teachers to focus on environmental hygiene and management to prevent vector-borne diseases. for health and environment with a focus on controlling vectors and vector-borne diseases. Students can serve as peer-educators and health “ambassadors” in their families and neighbourhoods.
Ministries of finance, planning and overseas development
- recognize vector control as a national development issue.
- integrate funding for vector control into disease control budgets.
- provide a critical link in translating national vector control policies into practice at the local level.
- work in close partnership with communities.
Environmental, neighbourhood and other community groups
- create strong partnerships with government to tackle together the social and environmental determinants of health.
- engage in awareness raising activities.
- call for improved sanitation and protection of water sources.
- organize vector control activities such as vegetation and rubbish clearance.
- improve capacity of community members, community health workers and agricultural extension workers through practical training short courses on vector biology, ecology and control methods.
Private sector and donors
- Donors and the private sector should work together to enhance collaboration and coordination of activities to sustainably support control programmes efficiently and effectively.
- Provide incentives for the research and development of insecticides, next generation vector control tools, innovative medicines and diagnostic tools.
- Initiatives should be well-coordinated with robust systems for monitoring, evaluation and reporting, as well as procedures for rapid identification and correction of problems.
- For many diseases such as Chagas disease, schistosomiasis and leishmaniasis, WHO has run control programmes using medicines donated or subsidized by the private sector.
Families and households
Individuals can make a significant contribution to vector control by:
- knowing which vectors carry disease in their local setting and when travelling.
- using proven vector-control tools at home, such as insecticide-treated bed nets, and protecting themselves against insect bites when travelling.
- cooperating with local authorities for such interventions as indoor residual spraying programmes.
- participating in community-based health education about reducing the risk of vector-borne diseases.
- taking part in environmental management campaigns. e.g. reducing standing water that could provide a breeding environment for mosquitoes around homes.