Tropical Medicine & International Health
Objective: We retrospectively analysed the relative search interest of malaria to (1) assess the relationship between Internet searches for malaria and rates of infection in 11 countries considered 'high burden' by WHO in 2019 and to (2) determine the ability of World Malaria Day on April 25 to generate interest in the disease.
Methods: Using Google Trends, we sought to determine the relative popularity of the topic of Malaria over 4 years (2015-2019). Worldwide and country-specific searches for 'malaria' were used to assess the influence the international awareness day has on global and local interest in malaria. In order to determine whether a relationship exists between Internet searches and the disease burden of malaria, the information gathered from Google Trends was then compared with reports of morbidity and mortality of malaria from the 2019 World Malaria Report.
Results: Globally, a negative mean difference in relative search volume was observed between World Malaria Day and the control periods of -2.46 (95% CI: -5.57 to 0.66). The relative search volume for malaria-related search terms increased by 2.91% (±4.60) from January 2015 to 1 July 2019 in the 5 countries with the highest malaria disease burden. A positive correlation (r = 0.804) was found between per capita infections and malaria Internet search interest in addition to deaths per 1000 residents and malaria relative search interest (r = 0.663) between 2015 and 2018.
Conclusion: Initiatives such as World Malaria Day may help raise public awareness concerning a specific disease, prompting individuals to seek out additional information. This is especially important in high-burden countries where access to the Internet is steadily growing. In these circumstances, having quality and easily accessible information is vital in the continuing fight against malaria.
Google Trends, Public Awareness Day, World Malaria Day, public health
Anderson J, Stafford A, Johnson AL, Hartwell M, Jellison S, Vassar M. Is World Malaria Day an Effective Awareness Campaign? An Evaluation of Public Interest in Malaria During World Malaria Day. Tropical Medicine & International Health. 2020; 25(11). doi: 10.1111/tmi.13480.