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Why is malaria associated with poverty? Findings from a cohort study in rural Uganda.

Tusting, L.S. and Rek, J.C. and Arinaitwe, E. and Staedke, S.G. and Kamya, M.R. and Cano, J. and Bottomley, C. and Johnston, D. and Dorsey, G. and Lindsay, S.W. and Lines, J.D. (2016) 'Why is malaria associated with poverty? Findings from a cohort study in rural Uganda.', Infectious diseases of poverty., 5 (1). p. 78.


Background Malaria control and sustainable development are linked, but implementation of ‘multisectoral’ intervention is restricted by a limited understanding of the causal pathways between poverty and malaria. We investigated the relationships between socioeconomic position (SEP), potential determinants of SEP, and malaria in Nagongera, rural Uganda. Methods Socioeconomic information was collected for 318 children aged six months to 10 years living in 100 households, who were followed for up to 36 months. Mosquito density was recorded using monthly light trap collections. Parasite prevalence was measured routinely every three months and malaria incidence determined by passive case detection. First, we evaluated the association between success in smallholder agriculture (the primary livelihood source) and SEP. Second, we explored socioeconomic risk factors for human biting rate (HBR), parasite prevalence and incidence of clinical malaria, and spatial clustering of socioeconomic variables. Third, we investigated the role of selected factors in mediating the association between SEP and malaria. Results Relative agricultural success was associated with higher SEP. In turn, high SEP was associated with lower HBR (highest versus lowest wealth index tertile: Incidence Rate Ratio 0.71, 95 % confidence intervals (CI) 0.54–0.93, P = 0.01) and lower odds of malaria infection in children (highest versus lowest wealth index tertile: adjusted Odds Ratio 0.52, 95 % CI 0.35–0.78, P = 0.001), but SEP was not associated with clinical malaria incidence. Mediation analysis suggested that part of the total effect of SEP on malaria infection risk was explained by house type (24.9 %, 95 % CI 15.8–58.6 %) and food security (18.6 %, 95 % CI 11.6–48.3 %); however, the assumptions of the mediation analysis may not have been fully met. Conclusion Housing improvements and agricultural development interventions to reduce poverty merit further investigation as multisectoral interventions against malaria. Further interdisplinary research is needed to understand fully the complex pathways between poverty and malaria and to develop strategies for sustainable malaria control.

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Publisher statement:This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
Date accepted:24 June 2016
Date deposited:09 December 2016
Date of first online publication:04 August 2016
Date first made open access:09 December 2016

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