BACKGROUND:As malaria elimination becomes a goal in malaria-endemic nations, questions of feasibility become critical. This article explores the potential challenges associated with this goal and future strategies for malaria elimination in the Greater Mekong Sub-region. METHODS:Thirty-two semi-structured interviews were conducted with policy makers (n = 17) and principal investigators (n = 15) selected based on their involvement in malaria prevention, control and elimination in the GMS. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed for qualitative content (thematic) analysis using QSR NVivo. RESULTS:All respondents described current malaria control and elimination strategies, such as case detection and management, prevention and strengthening of surveillance systems as critical and of equal priority. Aware of the emergence of multi-drug resistance in the GMS, researchers and policy makers outlined the need for additional elimination tools. As opposed to a centralized strategy, more targeted and tailored approaches to elimination were recommended. These included targeting endemic areas, consideration for local epidemiology and malaria species, and strengthening the peripheral health system. A decline in malaria transmission could lead to complacency amongst funders and policy makers resulting in a reduction or discontinuation of support for malaria elimination. Strong commitment of policymakers combined with strict monitoring and supervision by funders were considered pivotal to successful elimination programmes. CONCLUSION:Against a backdrop of increasing anti-malarial resistance and decreasing choices of anti-malarial regimens, policy makers and researchers stressed the urgency of finding new malaria elimination strategies. There was consensus that multi-pronged strategies and approaches are needed, that no single potential tool/strategy can be appropriate to all settings. Hence there is a need to customize malaria control and elimination strategies based on the better surveillance data.
Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Basel, Switzerland. email@example.com.