SENEGAL – The African Society for Laboratory Medicine (ASLM), Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and FIND, the global alliance for diagnostics, have teamed up with an aim to accelerate access to essential diagnostics across the Western Africa region.

The healthcare stakeholders jointly hosted representatives from 15 West African nations with the aim of expanding diagnostic testing as it is integral to healthcare access and delivery, and is a key enabler of universal health coverage (UHC).

Attendees were invited to explore the landscape surrounding the selection, availability and uptake of essential diagnostics, and to map their individual route towards national Essential Diagnostics Lists (EDLs),” FIND announced in an official statement.

In addition, the event aimed to kick-start the development of national EDLs across West Africa, as a lever to increase primary care-level access to essential tests, to strengthen key health infrastructures, and accelerate national and regional progress towards UHC.

Dr Sanjay Sarin, Vice President, Access at FIND, said: “Developing and implementing national EDLs is a critical step in accelerating access to diagnosis and ensuring that health systems can meet the needs of the patients they exist to serve.”

FIND underscored that EDLs are a basket of recommended types of tests to support the diagnosis of infectious and non-communicable diseases at each level of the healthcare system in settings with and without laboratories.

The 15 countries represented were: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo,” said the non-profit organization.

The global alliance for diagnostics further disclosed that the first-of-its-kind event, held in Dakar, Senegal, on 20–21 October 2022, brought together ministry and laboratory network representatives, as well as partners from leading global health institutions.

The two-day vent saw the attendance of the Director of Laboratories in Senegal Professor Amadou Moctar Dieye as well as representatives from the West African Health Organization (WAHO), Nigerian Ministry of Health, the Lancet Commission, the World Bank and DATOS.

Professor Amadou Moctar Dieye, Director of Laboratories in Senegal said: “We must make sure that every lab is stocked with the right equipment, tests and reagents – and that these supplies are sustainable.”

In addition, the attendees emphasized on the importance of embedding action within an enabling policy framework, and the need to secure sustainable financing that cuts across multiple diseases to meet identified priorities.

They also agreed on the importance of mapping existing diagnostic networks to understand gaps, and identify and prioritize actions as well as the need to strengthen surrounding health infrastructures, including laboratory services.

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