Social Networking to Fight Malaria

Social networking websites like Facebook and Sermo have been launched over the last couple of years as a way to keep in touch with friends and family or discuss specific healthcare topics with fellow colleagues. Although these websites serve these purposes well, perhaps online social networking can be used for a different purpose.

What do you know aboutmalaria? I have to admit that I don’t know much about malaria, but I have takenthe pills when traveling overseas. When I traveled abroad I was required totake the pills because malaria was prevalent in South Africa and Vietnam. Ialso took the pills when I lived in Costa Rica for a couple months a few yearsago, as a precaution. It was a waste because it turns out malaria wasn’tprevalent where I lived.

Throughout sub-SaharanAfrica the number of infections and deaths due to malaria has yet to becontrolled. The CDC’s

states that every year “350-500 million cases ofmalaria occur worldwide, and over one million people die, most of them youngchildren in sub-Saharan Africa.” Thesenumbers are scary, but then again there are a lot of scary numbers that areassociated with sub-Saharan Africa:

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  • AIDS is the leading cause of death in sub-Saharan Africa;
  • In 2007, 1.6 million deaths were because of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa
  • Diabetes in Africa will increase 93% by 2010

, Tom Hadfield,creator of the website Soccer.net, which he sold to ESPN for $40 million, incollaboration with professors Peter A. Singer and Abdallah S. Daar from theMcLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health at University Health Network inCanada and the University of Toronto, launched a new social networking site—www.malariaengage.org—toincrease public knowledge about the problems with malaria in sub-Saharan Africaand encourage site visitors to “donate $10 or more to help support sevendifferent research projects in Tanzania.”The plan is once the projects in Tanzania are funded, “MalariaEngage.org willlook to support new schemes across developing countries.”

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Social networking websiteslike Facebook and MySpace were the inspiration for Hadfield to design a websiteto connect people from all over the world who are united by a common goal, helpresearchers discover a way to treat malaria in lesser developed countries likeTanzania.