In order to develop and validate a generic framework on issues related to access to treatment , the ACCESS Programme took malaria as an empirical case study. Of course, access issues are also pressing with regard to most other high-burden or neglected diseases in developing countries. By focusing on malaria we chose a poverty-related disease that affects large parts of sub-Saharan Africa in terms of both, disease and economic development, at a time when funding for its control is more readily available than ever before .
The Kilombero Valley is an area for which the malaria situation has been particularly well described thanks to numerous research activities [66–69]. The preventive use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets has been advocated through the large social-marketing of the KINET project between 1997 and 1999. It resulted in high levels of ITN ownership and use [29, 70]. However, access to prompt and appropriate treatment is still poor. A baseline study in the frame of this programme found that only 14% of young children received an effective antimalarial in the correct dose on the day of illness onset . The aim is, therefore, to expand the successful approach chosen for ITNs to the crucial issue of access to treatment. The main target groups of the interventions are those most at risk in holo-endemic areas such as the Kilombero Valley: young children and pregnant women [21, 22, 72].
Interventions to improve the complex issue of access to malaria treatment are more likely to be successful if several working approaches are combined. Social marketing applies concepts and techniques used in commercial marketing to prompt behaviour change that benefits the target group . In recent years, it has become increasingly popular in health promotion where it has been proven effective e.g. in promoting the use of ITNs and reducing child mortality . However, care has to be taken that men and women profit equally from the approach – a challenge that has to be tackled by the programme. In the frame of ACCESS, the marketed "product" is the knowledge and awareness of malaria and the concept of treating a malaria episode appropriately. The "price" to be paid by the community is the adoption of the desired care-seeking and preventive behaviour. However, inducement of behaviour change alone is not sufficient; health services which are acceptable and of good quality must be available. Hence, the behaviour change campaign is also a way of empowering the community to demand for good quality health care. Activities to improve quality of health services become central components of the programme.
The major providers of malaria treatment services remain health workers. Their practices are influenced by a variety of factors and environments . The Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI) strategy adopted by Tanzania is an effective step to improve health worker performance leading to a reduction in child mortality  and out-of-pocket expenditures by patients . However, health systems often fail to implement effective guidelines in a sustainable way . The challenge therefore remains to assure adherence to IMCI guidelines and to address factors not directly related to case-management (e.g. motivation or job satisfaction). Multi-faceted approaches including supervision and strengthening of district-level health management are more likely to improve performance . The ACCESS Programme therefore combines training and information with the implementation of a quality-improvement process including strengthening the supportive supervision capacity of the district health management team.
As an alternative to formal health services, antimalarials can be obtained from the commercial sector. Drug shops and general stores are the most important alternative treatment sources for malaria in the study area [58, 77]. In an attempt to ensure quality of services, antimalarial drugs sales have recently been banned in general shops. With no alternative sources replacing general shops this policy resulted in a decreased availability of antimalarials in the study area . An alternative approach which has worked well in Kenya would be training of drug vendors . However, current Tanzanian legislation does not allow the selling of antimalarials in general shops. Consequently, any national strategy has to focus on improving the performance of drug stores and their dissemination to underserved areas through the ADDO project.
For the impact evaluation of ACCESS, a plausibility design had to be adopted . Identifying a comparable place as control area would not have been possible and randomization of different areas for intervention would not be feasible within the frame of this programme. Supporting evidence for causally linking an observed impact with the programme's interventions will be obtained through the collection of multiple indicators on intervention delivery, coverage and potential confounders. While the limits of such a design in establishing a causal link are obvious and well known, it needs to be recognized that any large-scale implementation goes through an iterative process of measuring progress and impact while continuously adapting and improving the process. Consequently, the interpretation of results has to take into account contextual changes and external influences. Data from other DSS sites and DHS in Tanzania will be of particular importance in interpreting mortality data and putting them into perspective.
Baseline data demonstrated heterogeneity in the availability of treatment sources, unavailability of medicines and providers and serious quality problems with regard to drugs and services. This supports the basic assumption that there are several inter-linked factors influencing access to effective malaria treatment.
The comparative advantage of the ACCESS Programme is its combination of multiple interventions on different levels of the health system, including a strong evaluation and research component. With this approach, the programme also aims to contribute to the wider debate on access to appropriate health care in developing countries. Based on Penchansky and Thomas'  understanding of "access" as the degree of "fit" between the health system and its users, the ACCESS Programme aims at developing a more comprehensive access framework . This can then inform and support public health professionals and policy-makers in the delivery of improved health services, ideally leading to better health and well-being.