Kent Campbell, PATH's Malaria Control Program director, received the distinguished Joseph Augustin LePrince Medal in recognition of outstanding work in the field of malariology at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene's award ceremony. Through a career spanning more than three decades, Campbell's leadership contributed to enormous progress in the fight against malaria in Africa--where more than 90 percent of malaria deaths occur--paving the way for countries that were once endemic to now strive for eliminating the disease.
"When I began this work in the 1970s, the situation across Africa was horrific," said Campbell. "With two children for every hospital bed and a focus on treatment rather than prevention, there was not much we could do to save lives. It became clear we had to shift from treatment toward prevention. Thanks to unprecedented global partnership, we made incredible progress controlling malaria in the last decade, and more than one million child deaths have been prevented in Africa. But we don't just want to control malaria, we want to eliminate it--and the results we see today across Africa show us this is possible."
Through Campbell's leadership, the Malaria Control and Evaluation Partnership in Africa (MACEPA), a program at PATH funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, partnered with African countries to develop malaria control strategies. Before MACEPA began its work in 2005, none of Africa's malaria-endemic countries had successfully achieved high coverage with malaria control tools. Working closely with the Zambian government, MACEPA implemented the Scale-up for Impact (SUFI) approach to rapidly deliver proven malaria tools through a strategic, programmatic approach to achieve the maximum health impact. The effort focused on the nationwide distribution of insecticide-treated bednets, the selective use of indoor spraying of insecticides, and the provision of new diagnostics and medications, while also documenting progress and impact. As a result of the unprecedented effort, Zambia became the first country in Africa to successfully achieve high coverage with these tools. Zambia saw a 29 percent reduction in all-cause child deaths between 2001 and 2007, resulting in an estimated 75,000 lives saved. From 2006 to 2008 alone, Zambia saw more than 50 percent reduction in malaria cases, hospitalizations, and prevalence in children--a dramatic drop in a very short period of time never before seen in Africa. Based on the tremendous progress achieved to date, Zambia has now sets its sights on eliminating malaria.
"Never before had such a strategic, programmatic approach been applied to controlling malaria, and the results were truly dramatic," said Rick Steketee, MACEPA science director. "Kent's leadership, vision, and collaborative spirit have been the driving force behind this effort."
With widespread implementation in more than 40 African countries, the SUFI approach is now the standard for malaria control and was included as a core component of the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership's Global Malaria Action Plan. The lessons learned from MACEPA's work have informed national programs across Africa, helping them create malaria control plans, increase the use of proven tools, build knowledge and capacity, and accelerate overall efforts to prevent malaria deaths.
With dramatic progress largely attributable to the SUFI approach, the global community has boldly called for the elimination of malaria. Many of the African countries that were early adopters of SUFI are now poised to work toward elimination. MACEPA is partnering with these countries to develop an evidence-based, programmatic approach to eliminating the disease using tools available today and a focused strategy.
"Elimination, once a far off goal, is now within reach in some areas of Africa. It's an ambitious goal, but one which we can achieve," said James W. Kazura, MD, FASTMH, president, American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. "We need more visionary leaders like Kent Campbell not just challenging us to strive for the next ambitious goal, but also showing us how to get there."
Campbell's work in malaria began in the 1970s at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where he led made major advances in addressing drug resistant malaria, malaria in pregnant women and infants, and in demonstrating the effectiveness of insecticide-treated bednets. He then joined the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center and led the development of the Arizona College of Public Health where he served as the interim dean. Following his time at the University of Arizona, he served as the senior malaria advisor to UNICEF and contributed to the development of the UNICEF and RBM strategy for malaria control for Africa. In 2003, Campbell served as a consultant to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Infectious Diseases Program, where he helped focus the foundation on malaria control in Africa. The work resulted in the funding of MACEPA in 2004 with Campbell serving as the program's director from 2004 to 2008 before becoming director of the Malaria Control Program.
The awards ceremony kicked off the ASTMH annual meeting that runs from November 11 to 15, 2012, during which MACEPA will be launching its new website, MakingMalariaHistory.org. The website will serve as a convening point and technical and advocacy resource for the global malaria community.