ASLM 2012, Addressing the Fundamental Strengthening of Laboratory Systems to Improve Healthcare and Save Lives in Africa
CDC IN SOUTH AFRICA BLOG
December 12, 2012, 2:00 pm ET U.S. CDC South Africa Office
The U.S. CDC’s role in the global health response is multi-faceted, and at the core is the agency’s role in establishing and strengthening international laboratories for rapid, effective disease response. The impact of CDC’s work in building sustainable and robust laboratories worldwide was evident last week at the African Society for Laboratory Medicine’s (ASLM) First International Conference in Cape Town, South Africa December 1-7.
A strong national public health laboratory system is essential for responding effectively to HIV and other diseases, and is crucial to rapidly detect and control emerging global public health threats. CDC is proud to be ASLM’s partner in the Africa region to continue to develop these laboratory systems.
CDC is contributing its unique scientific expertise to ASLM leadership and maximizing the impact and effectiveness of these high quality international laboratory systems and services. This is the right thing to do in order to save lives and to improve the health of those in need. In Africa, less than 10 percent of clinical decisions are based on laboratory results, compared to 70 percent in the U.S. This number will go up and more lives will be saved, and discussions at ASLM will work towards achieving this goal.
Last week at ASLM2012, attendees addressed the critical need of expanding the laboratory workforce. CDC supports this important element in order for ASLM to meet it’s goal of increasing translation of laboratory knowledge, practices, and technologies into clinical care and effectively implementing game-changing point of care technologies (POCT) for conducting complex lab tests in decentralized facilities.
I am pleased to know that this was addressed at ASLM 2012 as a direct result of the Laboratory Human Resources for Health (HRH) Consultation that took place in March 2012 at CDC in Atlanta. CDC’s work in this arena supports meeting the PEPFAR goal of training at least 140,000 new health care workers to address the critical shortfall in Africa and elsewhere.
There is a huge and increasing need for clinical care and management of patients in PEPFAR-supported countries suffering from HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria and a host of other diseases. Africa bears 24% of the global disease burden but it has only 3% of the world’s health workforce and less than 1% of the world’s financial resources for health. CDC is working with ASLM and our other partners such as WHO, Ministries of Health, and the African Union to have one qualified laboratorian per 1,000 population.
CDC’s work with ASLM to build high quality laboratory systems and services that are critical for HIV prevention, care and treatment, as well as for other diseases is an example of CDC’s role as a key implementing agency for PEPFAR. CDC also works to leverage PEPFAR resources including laboratories by linking them to other mainstream healthcare services. This integrated healthcare approach strengthens a country’s entire healthcare system and is key to global health security, which protects Americans at home and abroad.
CDC as an agency has focused action on our winnable battles, and global laboratory strengthening is a winnable battle. We have the science and evidence base for effective interventions which was evident in the abstracts that were presented during the conference.
I congratulate ASLM on embarking on this conference and strategically addressing the issues with the science, evidence, and economic impact in mind as the Africa region continues to strengthen their capacity to establish and maintain national laboratory systems.
CDC’s partnership with ASLM supports the agency’s mission to provide more cohesive and impactful global health programs; progress from this partnership is evident.
We and our friends in Africa deal with important health issues each day. I am proud that CDC is playing an integral role in accurate laboratory diagnostics in Africa, and throughout the world, because as the theme of ASLM 2012 states, laboratory diagnostics is “A Pillar of Quality Health Care”.