Prolonging net durability has important implications for reducing both malaria transmission and the frequency of net replacement. Protective behaviour, such as net care and repair, offers promise for improving net integrity and durability. Given the potential cost-savings and public health benefit associated with extending the useful life of long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs), prevention and mitigation of damage will become ever more critical to ensuring adequate net coverage at the population level.
A qualitative assessment was conducted in two districts in central eastern Uganda in September 2013. Data on household net care and repair behaviour, attitudes and practices were collected from 30 respondents through in-depth interviews (IDIs), observations, photos, and video to gather an in-depth understanding of these behaviours.
Net damage was common and the most cited causes were children and rodents. Responses revealed strong social norms about net cleanliness and aesthetics, and strong expectations that others should care for and repair their own nets. Respondents were receptive and able to repair nets, though longer-term repair methods, such as sewing and patching, were not as commonly reported or observed. Self-reported behaviour was not always consistent with observed or demonstrated behaviour, revealing potential misconceptions and the need for clear and consistent net care and repair messaging.
Respondents considered both aesthetics and malaria protection important when deciding whether, when, and how to care for and repair nets. BCC should continue to emphasize the importance of maintaining net integrity for malaria prevention purposes as well as for maintaining aesthetic appeal. Additional research is needed, particularly surrounding washing, drying, daily storage routines, and gender roles in care and repair, in order to understand the complexity of these behaviours, and refine existing or develop new behaviour change communication (BCC) messages for net care and repair.