Efficient and reliable laboratory diagnostic systems are an essential component of any resilient health system. Laboratory diagnostic capacity is critical towards reaching the global targets to end AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), malaria, and other diseases of public health importance.
Poor diagnostics capacity in Africa has led to dire consequences for its citizens. From erroneous diagnosis, ineffective treatment, and avoidable deaths, to an inability to determine the true prevalence of diseases, the African populace continues to grapple with the negative effects of a suboptimal laboratory diagnostic system.
For diseases like cancer, where early diagnosis is critical to achieving better treatment outcomes, limited access to diagnostics is a significant contributor to the higher mortality rate in Africa when compared to other parts of the world.
Chief among the drivers of the poor diagnostic capacity in Africa include limited human, financial and technical resources and poor laboratory evaluation and accreditation systems
Major drivers of poor diagnostics in Africa
Chief among the drivers of the poor diagnostic capacity in Africa include limited human, financial and technical resources and poor laboratory evaluation and accreditation systems. It is no news that one of the major challenges in strengthening healthcare in Nigeria and across Africa is poor access to funding.
Most low and middle-income countries (LMICs) could not live up to the WHO Abuja Declaration enacted in September 2000, which stipulates that LMICs dedicate 15 percent of domestic resources to health sectors. LMICs continue to rely almost entirely on foreign aid to fund their health sector.
Unfortunately, the lack of consistent donor funding and health financing have resulted in insufficient resources and inadequate healthcare infrastructure. This limited access to funding is particularly dire in the diagnostic sector, which is often undervalued and marginalised in the distribution of funds. There is, therefore, a critical need for investment in diagnostics in Africa to combat these issues, and strategic partnerships are indispensable in achieving sustainable results.
Partnerships are essential to strengthen diagnostics
A proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, walk together.” It is evident that partnerships are necessary to achieve the common goal of strengthening laboratory systems and services. This service delivery area is a cross cutting intervention, requiring the coordinated and harmonised activities of various stakeholders.
No single entity can work in isolation to achieve lasting success. Where funding is available, technical expertise may be lacking. However, through partnerships, each player can contribute its own expertise to achieve sustainable results.
Apart from partnerships to strengthen government laboratories, the establishment of private labs is essential in the delivery of laboratory services. Private laboratories have become a major part of the network of national laboratories. Establishing private labs is key to building national diagnostic capacity, as well as promoting partnership models in health financing that increase access to diagnostic services and patient care.
Case study of Bloom Public Health, Katchey Laboratories, ND Western Limited and IPPG partnership model
ND Western Limited, an indigenous oil and gas company in Nigeria, in collaboration with the Independent Petroleum Producers Group (IPPG) decided to invest in the establishment of a molecular laboratory in Delta State, Nigeria. To achieve this, ND Western Limited, who, although having the financial resources, lacked the technical expertise for the work, partnered with Katchey Laboratories and Bloom Public Health. While Katchey Laboratories provided premium laboratory equipment and will manage the laboratory, Bloom Public Health provided all the technical support for the actualization of the project.
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It is from this outstanding partnership that Delta Plus Diagnostics, a world-class, fully equipped, molecular laboratory, providing the best medical diagnostics services to the medical community, corporations, HMOs, and individuals in Delta and its neighbouring states, was established.
The partnership between Bloom Public Health, Katchey Laboratories, ND Western Limited, and IPPG is an outstanding partnership model in health financing, and one to be emulated by other stakeholders in Nigeria’s public health sector.
This is of great significance considering the recently concluded Primary Health Care Summit 2022 in Abuja, Nigeria, during which stakeholders committed to address the critical challenges confronting primary health care with a goal to transform healthcare in Nigeria at the grass-roots level. One of these critical challenges in the healthcare system is the poor laboratory diagnostic system.
Given the key role of laboratory services, strategic partnerships should be deployed in the establishment and strengthening of laboratories across the country to address the critical shortage of diagnostics as a crucial element in the healthcare system.
This is one of the several public health areas where Bloom Public Health has excelled. Bloom Public Health has been at the forefront, strengthening and building capacity in both analytical and diagnostic laboratories in Africa, and has over the last few months channelled its expertise in providing technical assistance to various laboratories and institutions, recording tremendous success. Bloom Public Health is looking forward to scaling its laboratory strengthening interventions across the continent through strategic collaborations and partnerships.
Investment in laboratory systems is critical to the successful reduction of the global burden of disease in Africa. Partnerships in health financing provide a reliable pathway to strengthen diagnostics in Africa and contribute to the building of resilient and sustainable systems for health.