Social Media Awards for Malaria Heroes

Social media can be used to reduce malaria prevalence and mortality. It also facilitates new malaria innovations. On 16 November, six malaria activists won the Social Media Awards.

BugBitten sends congratulations

Inis Communications, an international communications firm that helps global health and development agencies achieve greater impact and visibility, celebrates “Malaria Heroes” with the 2015 Social Media Awards. Six malaria activists won these awards in the categories “Young Leaders”, “Innovators”, “Best Communications”, “Africa”, “Asia-Pacific” and “Latin America”.“Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are central to engaging wider audiences in information sharing, dialogue, knowledge creation and collaborative action on priority health issues,” says the company.

As these six winners demonstrate, social media can be used to educate the population in malaria endemic regions on how to protect themselves and help eliminate malaria, increase awareness of malaria in non-endemic countries, share information on malaria with researchers, developers and clinicians worldwide, connect people who work with malaria and inform about progress made and future goals. It has the potential to protect people from malaria by causing behavioural changes and to facilitate the development of new antimalarial drugs and devices to eliminate mosquitoes.

Lazarus Eze – Young Leaders

young leadersDr. Lazarus Eze uses social media and the radio to encourage a change in the behaviour of Nigerian people in regard to malaria prevention and treatment. As Senior Monitoring & Evaluation Officer of the Association of Reproductive and Family Health (ARFH), he encourages the use of long lasting insecticide treated nets (LLINs) and indoor residual sprays (IRS) and involves community members, for example by training community volunteers to explain the benefits and correct usage of bed nets. On social media, Eze has been advocating for years for the elimination of malaria in Nigeria, using the hashtag #BeatMalaria. He says that primary prevention is to eliminate the vector itself. In addition, Eze is co-host of @TalkHealth9ja, a Nigerian radio show that discusses health matters. The show is in Pidgin English, which allows a wide range of Nigerians to join and learn about health. You can listen to @TalkHealth9ja online every Friday morning.

Bart Knols – Best Communications

Prof. Bart Knols is founder of MalariaWorld, which has almost 9,000 subscribers in best_communicationsover 140 countries. The site contains an open access journal, blogs, news, polls and info on events and jobs. Knols is also co-founder of In2Care, a company which develops new tools to control mosquitoes. The company is also coordinator of the Mosquito Contamination Devices (MCD) Project. Knols’ blog post on the elimination of malaria in Brazil won the THINK3! Competition of the European Journalism Centre. So far, he has co-authored more than 140 scientific articles, 19 book chapters and a book on malaria. In a 2012 TEDxMaastricht talk, which can be found on YouTube, Knols explained how cheese, dogs and pills can kill mosquitoes. Returning to TEDxMaastricht one year later, he asked whether Malaria is a complex disease with simple solutions.

Matthew Todd – Innovators

innovatorsDr. Matthew Todd is an associate professor at the University of Sydney. He leads the Open Source Malaria Consortium (SMC), which is dedicated to finding new ways of defeating malaria. SMC follows three general principles: 1) all data and ideas are freely shared, 2) anybody can take part in the project at any level and 3) there will not be any patents. In addition, research findings are put online in real-time. In general, Todd promotes open research. According to him, open research helps avoid duplicating someone else’s work and facilitates valuable input from other experts. You can meet some of the SMC collaborators in a video on Youtube, where you will also be invited to join in their efforts.

Corine Karema – Africa

Dr. Corine Karema is Director of Rwanda’s National Malaria Control Program and africaHead of Malaria Division, Rwanda Biomedical Centre. She has co-authored several papers on malaria, including one that showed a decline in confirmed malaria cases, admissions and deaths in Rwanda between 2000 and 2010. In 2013, Karema stated in an online newspaper that Rwanda’s focus was on achieving pre-elimination levels by 2017 by causing behavioural changes in the population. She specifically mentioned increased use of bed nets, eliminating mosquito breeding sites and better health care seeking behaviour. In addition, Karema is a lecturer at the University of Global Health Equity and a PhD student at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute. On Twitter, she shares information on malaria, including malaria data from Rwanda.

Sara Canavati – Asia-Pacific

asia_pacificDr. Sara Canavati is a senior research scientist and infectious diseases epidemiologist, working for the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU). Canavati has co-authored several papers, including one on the relationship between human population movement and malaria in Cambodia and another one on the disease burden in Cambodia and its major determinant between 2004 and 2013. For the last ten years, she has been researching malaria in Cambodia, fighting drug-resistant malaria. Canavati is co-administrator of the Facebook page of the World Federation of Parasitologists, where she shares new knowledge on malaria issues. In addition, she uses her personal Facebook and Twitter accounts to inform about this disease. On YouTube, she has compiled an impressive number of videos on malaria. Canavati says she strongly believes that malaria advocacy is crucial for malaria elimination.

Jaime Chang – Latin America

Dr. Jaime Chang has been coordinator of the Amazon Malaria Initiative (AMI) for latin_americaover ten years. The initiative works to improve infectious disease control and prevention using promising practices, innovations, and lessons learned. It supports several countries in South and Central America. AMI has a community and group page on Facebook as well as a Twitter handle and a Flickr page. Chang has co-authored scientific papers such as on the artemisinin efficacy in Guyana and Suriname and on the performance of malaria control strategies implemented by countries in the Amazon subregion.

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