Knowledge, attitudes, and practices concerning malaria in pregnancy: results from a qualitative study in Madang, Papua New Guinea

20 Apr 2015
Andrew EV, Pell C, Angwin A, Auwun A, Daniels J, Mueller I, Phuanukoonnon S, Pool R.

Malaria is the leading cause of illness and death in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Infection during pregnancy with falciparum or vivax malaria, as occurs in PNG, has health implications for mother and child, causing complications such as maternal anemia, low birth weight and miscarriage. This article explores knowledge, attitudes and practices concerning malaria during pregnancy and it's prevention in Madang, PNG, a high prevalence area.


As part of a qualitative study in Madang, exploring MiP, participatory techniques (free-listing and sorting) were conducted along with focus group discussions, in-depth interviews (with pregnant women, health staff and other community members) and observations in the local community and health facilities.


The main themes explored were attitudes towards and knowledge of MiP, its risks, and prevention. Although there was a general awareness of the term "malaria", it was often conflated with general sickness or with pregnancy-related symptoms. Moreover, many preventive methods for MiP were related to practices of general healthy living. Indeed, varied messages from health staff about the risks of MiP were observed. In addition to ideas about the seriousness and risk of MiP, other factors influenced the uptake of interventions: availability and perceived comfort of sleeping under insecticide-treated mosquito nets were important determinants of usage, and women's heavy workload influenced Chloroquine adherence.


The non-specific symptoms of MiP and its resultant conflation with symptoms of pregnancy that are perceived as normal have implications for MiP prevention and control. However, in Madang, PNG, this was compounded by the inadequacy of health staff's message about MiP.