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Leaving no one behind: targeting mobile and migrant populations with health interventions for disease elimination—a descriptive systematic review



Mobile and migrant populations (MMPs) pose a unique challenge to disease elimination campaigns as they are often hard to survey and reach with treatment. While some elimination efforts have had success reaching MMPs, other campaigns are struggling to do so, which may be affecting progress towards disease control and elimination. Therefore, this paper reviews the literature on elimination campaigns targeting MMPs across a selection of elimination diseases—neglected tropical diseases, malaria, trypanosomiasis, polio, smallpox, and rinderpest.


Through a systematic review process following Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines, a three-person review team identified papers from databases, conference records, and citation searches using inclusion/exclusion criteria. Papers were divided into three key outcome domains during the synthetization process: (1) MMP movement patterns in East Africa including reasons for movement and consequences in terms of health outcomes and healthcare access; (2) MMP contribution to the transmission of disease across all geographies; (3) surveillance methods and treatment interventions used to implement programming in MMPs across all geographies. Experts in the field also provided supplemental information and gray literature to support this review.


The review identified 103 records which were descriptively analyzed using the outcome domains. The results indicate that in East Africa, there are various motivations for migration from economic opportunity to political unrest to natural disasters. Regardless of motivation, mobile lifestyles affect health service access such that MMPs in East Africa report barriers in accessing healthcare and have limited health knowledge. Often lower service delivery to these populations has resulted in higher disease prevalence. A minority of articles suggest MMPs do not pose challenges to reaching disease control and elimination thresholds. Finally, the literature highlighted surveillance methods (e.g., using satellite imagery or mobile phone data to track movement, participatory mapping, snowball sampling) and intervention strategies (e.g., integration with animal health campaigns, cross-border coordination, alternative mass drug administration [MDA] methods) to implement health interventions in MMPs.


Ultimately, the literature reviewed here can inform programmatic decisions as the community attempts to reach these never treated populations. Systematic review registration The protocol for this manuscript was registered with the International Prospective Registry of Systematic Reviews (PROSPERO) (No. CRD42021214743),

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Journal Article
Adams MW
Sutherland EG
Eckert EL
Saalim K
Reithinger R