How many malaria deaths in Botswana this year?

The answer is two according to Ministry of Health officials as reported by AllAfrica.com. Now, no one (hopefully) believes only two deaths have occurred and yet the figure is presented as fact. This is either a case of imprecise language on the part of a public health official or bad reporting by the news outlet. Either way it points to a larger problem – malaria deaths (or cases) are hard to count and our capacity to do so is very poor. Two recorded deaths could mean two actual deaths (unlikely), or 20, or 200. We have no idea. Since we really don’t know, we should make that clear when we are relaying the information. Unfortunately, as illustrated above, that does not happen. Accurate measurements are essential in public health to deploy and evaluate interventions. Accurate communications are essential in public health to inform stakeholders and maintain trust.

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