Effort Launched To Strengthen African Medical Labs

The U.S., WHO and representatives from 13 African countries on Monday launched an effort to boost the standards for quality medical labs on the continent, VOA News reports. At the start of a three-day meeting of policy makers in Kigali, Rwanda, African health officials signed off an accreditation system for laboratories across the continent. “Better medical labs mean better patient care – and officials say the only way to ensure a laboratory is a good one is to have it accredited,” the news service writes (De Capua, 7/27).

“The process, developed by the WHO in collaboration with the U.S. government, will allow African pathology labs to move up a five-point scale as they improve their quality of service, with a ‘five-star’ rating being equivalent to a good lab in a developed country,” Nature News writes. The accreditation program is in tandem with an initiative through which “volunteers from the American Society for Clinical Pathology and the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative [will] train African lab workers” (Nordling, 7/27).

“The larger the number of accredited laboratories throughout the continent, the greater the assurance we can have of the existence of high levels of compliance with the prerequisite standards of quality which all laboratory services must have in order to be credible,” Rwanda WHO Representative Jack Abdoulie said, adding that the program will assist managers to cost effectively carry out improvments , New Times/allAfrica.com reports (Karuhanga, 7/27).

Though the initiative alone “does not commit large sums of money to African laboratories, the step-by-step process will help governments and international donors redirect existing resources, says John Nkengasong, international laboratory branch chief of the CDC’s global health programme,” Nature News writes. “There is funding for laboratories in the large programmes, such as PEPFAR and the Global Fund. What countries have lacked so far is a blueprint for how to spend it,” Nkengasong said. The program will also help coordinate the “laboratory support African countries receive from different donors,” the news service writes.

“Together we can build a system where labs are well managed, provide high quality testing, produce reliable and timely results; where staff morale is high, money is not wasted and the standard of care bolsters the health of the global community,” former U.S. president Bill Clinton said in a video address at the Kigali conference (7/27).