Background Insecticide-treated bednets (ITNs) are recommended for use by 3.4 billion people at risk of malaria world-wide. Policy makers rely on measurements of ITN use to optimize malaria prevention efforts. Self-reports are the most common means of assessing ITN use, but self-reports may be biased in a way that reduces their reliability as a proxy for ITN adherence. This meta-analysis compared self-reported and two methods which are more objective measures of ITN use to explore whether self-reports overestimate actual ITN adherence. Methods A comprehensive search of electronic databases and hand searching reference lists resulted in screening 2885 records and 202 articles were read in full. Sixteen articles with comparable data were chosen for the meta-analysis. Comparable data was defined as self-reported and objectively measured ITN use (observation of a mounted ITN or surprise visits confirming use) at the same unit of analysis, covering the same time period and same population. A random effects model was used to determine a weighted average risk difference between self-reported and objectively measured ITN use. Additional stratified analyses were conducted to explore study heterogeneity. Results Self-reported ITN use is 8 percentage points (95% confidence interval CI: 3 to 13) higher than objectively measured ITN use, representing a 13.6% overestimation relative to the proportion measured as adherent to ITN use by objective measures. Wide variations in the discrepancies between self-reports and objective measures were unable to be explained using stratified analyses of variables including location, year of publication, seasonality and others. Conclusions Self-reports overestimate ITN adherence relative to objectively measured ITN use by 13.6% and do so in an unpredictable manner that raises questions about the reliability of using self-reported ITN use alone as a surveillance tool and a guide for making policy decisions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health Policy
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health