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This public engagement project in Battambang Province, western Cambodia, was co-organised by the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit and the Cambodian National Malaria Control Programme. Drama and music are used as a means of communication to encourage people to get early diagnosis and treatment, to use insecticide treated bednets, and to raise awareness about the risks of malaria.

Countries in Southeast Asia are working towards the elimination of falciparum malaria. In Cambodia, malaria is in decline but malaria parasites, resistant to most treatments have emerged. Rapid elimination is now a matter of urgency. In western Cambodia, most malaria infections occur in rural areas, among people working in forests. An existing village malaria worker programme provides early free diagnosis and treatment. Unfortunately, the people at most risk of malaria are also the hardest to reach with health services and health education. In the Battambang Province, health authorities, in partnership with the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Programme, have organised a series of drama and music workshops in twenty villages. These are remote villages of a few hundred people with very little infrastructure or modern entertainment. The message of the drama and the songs is to encourage people to get early diagnosis and treatment from the village malaria workers, to prevent mosquito bites by using insecticide treated nets, and to raise awareness about the risk from malaria in local forests. We chose drama as a means of communication and education because traditional Cambodian drama is popular in rural communities and it attracts very large audiences. It is fun, gets the villagers involved, and appeals to people who might otherwise not receive health education.