In November 2013, a CDC report alerted the public to a surprising fact: the number of malaria cases in the United States in 2011 was at its highest since 1971. In a time when healthcare costs are already a national concern, the malaria numbers are particularly alarming. Since the report was released, healthcare professionals have been focused on finding ways to revamp the existing protocols for patient education and malaria treatment.
According to the CDC, there were 1,925 reported cases of malaria in 2011. In five cases, the victims died from the disease. Of the 1,925 cases, 1,920 were imported, meaning that the disease did not originate in the United States. While the numbers do not point to a malaria outbreak, they are cause for concern. Because the 2011 number represents a 48 percent increase from the 2008 figure, healthcare providers are concerned that more people are traveling without taking proper precautions—possibly as a result of rising healthcare costs.
For healthcare providers, the CDC report points to a need for comprehensive patient education—particularly for patients headed for Africa, where most of the malaria cases originated. Although the CDC has always recommended that consumers seek out the advice of a healthcare professional before traveling, Americans do not appear to be listening. The rapid rise in malaria cases indicates that more people are traveling without awareness or proper precaution.
When it comes to malaria prevention, education is a crucial component. Healthcare professionals can do only so much, particularly if they are not aware of patients' travel plans. Consumers' growing concerns about high healthcare costs may mean that doctors won't have the chance to warn them about malaria outbreaks in destination countries.
While most healthcare professionals cannot do anything about rising healthcare costs, they can do more to educate clients. The key is to use existing communication methods to disperse information. Include a malaria warning in a regular newsletter, add it to a marketing email, or add a blurb to your website.
All patient-education materials should provide basic information on malaria transmission and high-risk areas. The disease is transmitted by mosquitoes, particularly those in tropical regions. According to a recent story in News Medical, the disease is preventable with the right medications. Your education efforts can also appeal to clients' financial sense by explaining that prevention costs are a drop in the bucket compared to the long-term healthcare costs for malaria cases.
The fight to reduce malaria rates in the United States must come from all areas of the healthcare industry. Until healthcare costs are manageable for all international travelers, industry professionals must find ways to educate patients and the general public. By making an effort to spread the word about malaria, you can contribute to the improvement of public health.
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