Public health work may have eliminated malaria in 1930s American South

A study conducted by researchers at UT Arlington recently found the elimination of malaria in the American South in the 1930s was likely due to public health interventions.

The study, titled "Eliminating Malaria in the American South: An Analysis of the Decline of Malaria in 1930s Alabama," was recently published in the American Journal of Public Health. Previous studies hypothesized that the eradication of malaria in the region during that time period was the result of farmers abandoning their fields.

Dr. Daniel Sledge, professor of political science at UT Arlington and leader of the study, said public health programs were responsible for the elimination of the disease.

"We assessed this argument using Census data on the number of farms operated by tenants during the 1930s," Sledge said. "We found that highly malarial areas actually gained population during the period that malaria declined. Changes in the type of farms, meanwhile, didn't lead to a decline in malaria... Put another way, population movement didn't lead to the end of malaria in the United States -- public health work did."

Sledge's findings, if accurate, give hope for the eradication of malaria in other regions throughout the world.

"Dr. Sledge's work has far-reaching implications for those who work to eradicate malaria and similar diseases," Beth Wright, dean of the College of Liberal Arts at UT Arlington, said. "Huge challenges remain, but such research brings about better understanding of potential solutions and could ultimately help save lives."