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Communication and marketing strategies have played crucial roles in achieving major progress against malaria, with the tangible symbol of the insecticide-treated bed net providing a powerful marketing tools, such as – “$10 buys a net and saves a life.”



Despite significant progress over the past 10 years, a real risk of triumphalism and donor fatigue exists as funders struggle to raise money in a difficult economic environment and the public mistakenly assumes that the work is done. Misperceptions in endemic countries, from the most senior leaders to the malaria patients themselves, may also contribute to the ineffective deployment and utilization of the existing toolkit. It is essential to sustain momentum and maintain malaria as a key item in the global and local policy agendas.

The communications and advocacy efforts of the Defeating Malaria effort are focused on the following near-term priorities:

  • Mobilizing the power of mass communications to empower individuals to adopt behaviors that foster control and elimination of malaria;
  • Directing policy makers’ attention to important issues regarding malaria, and frame those issues for public debate and resolution;
  • Preparing current and future leaders to utilize communication strategies effectively to promote malaria control through behavior change and policy implementation;
  • Strengthening communications between health professionals and journalists to ensure that the public understands the current state of malaria interventions; and
  • Keeping malaria at the forefront of the policy and public agendas.
Science of Eradication: Malaria 2014

The 2014 edition of the Science of Eradication: Malaria leadership development course was hosted June 1-9 in Basel, Switzerland. 53 participants with diverse backgrounds, representing 31 countries, contributed to dynamic and important on a wide range of malaria related topics.

Mobilizing Harvard to Defeat Malaria

Harvard Malaria Competition

To harness the creativity, influence, and reach of the Harvard community, the Defeating Malaria initiative and partners at the MCJ/Amelior Foundation have launched a university-wide Harvard Malaria Competition. The competition invites students to develop ways to spark vibrant conversations on campus to both increase awareness about the disease and engage Harvard faculty, students, alumni, and supporters. The competition presents an excellent opportunity for students with a passion for problem solving, innovation, global health, and social responsibility to generate new ideas to address the global problem of malaria.

2015-16 Harvard Malaria Competition winners aimed to raise awareness by using social media, leveraging existing excitement on college campuses across the U.S., and giving the Harvard community, and students around the country, easy access to exciting information on malaria and simple ways to share information and spread the word.

Malaria Assassins is a novel advocacy campaign led by Harvard College students to raise awareness of malaria by pairing the enthusiasm of college students with the popular game ‘Assassins.‘ This interactive, live-action game is played across college campuses every year, and was paired with the imperative to address malaria when it was played at Harvard College. Students had the opportunity to learn about the latest progress towards malaria eradication and spread awareness – all while vying for the top spot in the game.

Harvard College undergraduates Andrew Chang, Bianca Mulaney, Brendan Eappen, Amna Hashmi, Pranay Nadella, and Willy Xiao also leveraged the excitement about the Malaria Assassins game by launching a social media malaria awareness campaign on Facebook and Twitter.

Smile, Share, and Be Aware: A World Malaria Day Campaign

Harvard College sophomore, Ava Violich, led an innovative and interactive malaria campaign called, “Smile, Share, and Be Aware,” to spread information on malaria and inspire action in the fight against this global disease. This photo booth campaign captured fun shots of students, faculty, and members of the Harvard community on World Malaria Day; the campaign enabled many to learn more about malaria and how to end malaria for good. Participants that attended the global movement to eradicate malaria in Harvard Yard shared their shots on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (and kept photo-strips as a keepsake!).


Share your ideas

Researchers, medical professionals and policymakers are responsible for communicating facts and findings to the general public. Translating data into evidence-based communication enables the creation of knowledge and strengthens the foundation for effective decision-making and advocacy. Many tools exist to synthesize and disseminate data-driven knowledge. For example, Work the World uses an infographic, a powerful visual communication tool, to describe How We Could Have a World Without Malaria.

Defeating Malaria wants to hear your ideas, suggestions and examples of ways of mobilizing the power of mass communications to effectively share evidence-based knowledge. We want to learn of new ways of translating data into useful resources, connecting people to an important cause and galvanizing a robust public reaction.

Connect with us on Twitter (@HarvardMalaria), and share your ideas!

Share Your Ideas and Make a Difference

Can Math Beat Disease?

National Geographic Emerging Explorer and computational geneticist Pardis Sabeti is on a mission to combat infectious disease. Through the power of genomic science and human partnership, Professor Sabeti is determined to head off emerging diseases before they become global pandemics.

Mobilizing for Global Health Seminar Series

The Mobilizing for Global Health Seminar Series, sponsored by Harvard’s Defeating Malaria initiative, introduces students to speakers working at the forefront of the fight against global malaria. Similar to other global health challenges, solving the problem of malaria will require a multidisciplinary approach. No single set of skills or field of expertise can solve the problem alone. The Mobilizing for Global Health Seminar Series inspires students to take purposeful action to fight malaria.

Past speakers included Martin Edlund, CEO of Malaria No More; Iqram Magdon-Ismail, Co-Founder of Venmo, a social payment space inspiring radical change in the way people engage in charity and global causes; and Ashifi Gogo, CEO of Sproxil, a company developing counterfeit protection technology that allows consumers to protect themselves from fake and stolen goods, including fake anti-malarial drugs. The “Making Malaria the First Disease Beaten by Mobile,” demonstrated innovative ways mobile technology can be applied to revolutionize major global health problems in the developing world.

A second seminar featured Rich Mintz, Executive Vice President, of Blue State Digital, the media and technology strategy firm responsible for the digital technology strategy for Obama’s presidential campaigns. Together with Caroline Buckee, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, whose research focuses on mining cell phone data to track how people’s movements correlate with the spread of disease, Rich discussed the Power of Breakthrough Ideas in Solving Global Health Challenges, including the innovative use of technology, strategies for engagement and advocacy for action.

Join us at our next event or send us an email to sign up to our listserv!


Creating New Behavior Change Initiatives

Professor Jay Winsten, Associate Dean and Director of the Center for Health Communication at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health is engaging faculty and students to focus on synthesizing and disseminating available knowledge on behavior change communication, and creating and evaluating new behavior change initiatives. One activity under way that could have a substantial impact in Sub-Saharan Africa is a “designated driver”-like campaign to promote the consistent use of bed nets.

According to estimates, each 1 percent increase in consistent use of bed nets will save an additional 21,000 lives a year. The African film industry (“Nollywood”) has experienced explosive growth since the 1990s, and its movies now are widely distributed on DVDs throughout Sub-Saharan Africa reaching even the most isolated rural villages.

Mobilizing Nollywood’s top movie producers and directors as partners in malaria prevention could help to strengthen the adoption of malaria control interventions, just as Harvard’s partnership with Hollywood succeeded against drunken driving.

The idea is to tap the power of narrative story-telling by creating moments in which the dramatic action in a movie is temporarily paused as a character checks to make sure that children in the household are sleeping under their bed nets.

Efforts like this have the potential to make a fundamental change in cultural attitudes, and can result in strikingly better outcomes for society. The University also will pursue efforts to strengthen policy advocacy on behalf of, and in collaboration with, the international malaria community.

Similar to other innovative communication strategies – such as, Alienation Digital’s recently unveiled new site that tells the story of malaria and its effects in comic-book form (“The Battle Against a Microscopic Killer“), a new HBO film about two women’s personal experiences with malaria, “Mary and Martha,” and the Dutch Malaria Foundation’s “Fake Malaria Drugs Kill” petition against the trade of fake drugs in Africa- the creation of new communications and advocacy tools are essential to sustain momentum and maintain malaria as a key item in the global and local policy agendas.


Nightmare: Malaria

Nightmare: Malaria drops players into the bloodstream of a young girl infected by malaria. Players make their way through 18 levels of fever-dream visuals, avoiding killer mosquitoes.

The Battle Against a Microscopic Killer

"The Battle Against a Microscopic Killer," is a new comic focused on educating children (and adults) about malaria and was developed for the University of Glasgow-coordinated malaria research organization EVIMalaR.

Fake Malaria Drugs Kill

One-third of all malaria drugs sold in Africa are fake. The Dutch Malaria Foundation is circulating a petition against the trade of fake malaria drugs.

A Vaccine That Could End Malaria

New transmission-blocking vaccines are in the early stages of development. One such vaccine would create antibodies that are then transmitted to mosquitoes when they bite.