The East African Public Health Laboratory networking project comes at an exciting time when the Ministries’ of Health are making amends to re-engineer diagnostic services in Kenya and the region.
This is an opportunity for laboratory professionals to invest by having new diagnostic technologies to inform public health policy and also improve laboratory management practices at the end of the day. The Project was officially launched on 11th October 2010 in Arusha, Tanzania at East, Central and Southern Africa Health Community (ECSA) offices beginning a long journey Through IDA support, National Public Health Laboratory Services has held consultative meetings between management and technical staff which have resulted in the formation of Technical Working Groups with a view of addressing several laboratory issues.
The laboratory teams have come up with several draft documents on quality assurance, biosafety/ biosecurity, facility level specific guidelines on microbiology tests and review of laboratory indicators and discussions and consultations are ongoing. Notable achievements have been the formation of laboratory M&E TWG.
Of all the regions of the World, Africa is lagging considerably behind when it comes to the availability of health personnel. Africa’s health human resource problems take various forms, including overall scarcity, inequitable distribution and poor performance. Governments across Africa with support from development partners are stepping up efforts to strengthen the health workforce, building on the growing evidence base that shows an important link between the number of health workers and both service delivery and health outcomes.
To date, focus has been on doctors and nurses, leaving out a large number of other cadres critical to the delivery of health services. These are the “under- recognized” cadres in the health sector that include: health systems managers, health information specialists, social welfare workers, community health workers, pharmacists, supply chain management professionals, and laboratory personnel. All the above cadres, by virtue of their work, are important for the effective delivery of health services and an integral–but neglected– part of the health system.
Laboratory personnel are one of the key under- recognized cadres. Shortages of qualified laboratory technicians, inadequate training opportunities, and a skewed distribution are common problems hindering the efficient delivery of lab services across sub-Saharan Africa. There is an urgent need for recognition of the vital role of laboratory personnel, as human resources are the backbone of quality diagnostics.
The EAPHLN project is now doing a lot in order to have the laboratory personnel be recognised in the health system this includes capacity building, empowerment at lower levels and advocacy of importance of laboratories and the laboratory personnel terminology being properly defined.
As we celebrate World TB day today, March 24th 2013 there is much to be aware about as alot of gains and achievements in the fight against tuberculosis but this has to be maintained by countries so that we are not taken aback from where we came from. The World Bank’s efforts for this biggest killer of HIV/AIDS patient is commendable especially looking at what the East Africa Public Health Laboratory Networking project (EAPHLN) has been doing so far.
One of the WHO key pillars in TB control and this was revised recently is increasing uptake of new rapid diagnostics and associated laboratory strengthening for TB and drug resistance TB and new molecular technologies like GeneXpert play a bigger role as more diagnostic tools enter the market and this will assist in having quick diagnosis thereby bringing the burden down especially in the high burden countries like Kenya. the WHO diagnostics team has been pro active in ensuring new and faster methods of diagnosing all kinds of TB are being introduced and more research funds need to be directed towards this. The laboratory network being supported by the Bank through the EAPHLN has invested into some of these areas and quickly accelerated access and provision to some of these vital laboratory tests.
MDR-TB is still an issue for TB control and the Director General of WHO – Dr. Margaret Chan says it all ” We are treading water at a time when we desperately need to scale up our response to MDR-TB”. Finally the advance of the laboratories is key in TB control and use of advocacy tools like newsletters and bulletins tell the story in a different way to a wider audience. The project produces quarterly bulletins and information on the activities can viewed online ( link – www.eaphln-ecsahc.org/kenya). The theme for World TB day – Stop TB in my life time is perfect as we approach the deadline for the 2015 target for MDG’s in TB control. Miriam’s blog captures the spirit of this journey and the video showcases some of this early achievements within Kenya and the greater East Africa under the innovative program!!