World Health Organization publishes first 'essential diagnostics list'

WHO unveils first essential diagnostic test list

In a first, WHO lists essential tests to cut premature deaths

Of the 113 evaluations among the, 58 are recorded for detection and identification of common conditions which could help management and screening of patients. WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement that an accurate diagnosis was the first step towards receiving effective treatment. For example, illnesses like HIV or TBC have a more chance to spread if not diagnosed in time, thus affecting the whole community and making the illness hard to treat.

The diagnostics list concentrates on in vitro tests like blood and urine. A lack of diagnostic services has left many people unable to get treated or incorrectly diagnosed. "No one should suffer or die because of a lack of diagnostic services, or because the right tests were not available". Other more sophisticated tests on the list are intended for larger medical facilities.

The Essential Diagnostics List is meant to serve as a reference for countries to update or develop their own list of essential diagnostics.

For each category of test, the list specifies the type of test and intended use, format, and whether it is appropriate for primary health care or for health facilities with laboratories.

Mariangela Simao, the WHO's assistant director-general for access to medicines, vaccines, and pharmaceuticals, said that besides offering a tool for countries, the document serves as a signal to countries and developers that tests on the list must be high-quality, safe, and affordable. The list also provides links to WHO Guidelines or publications and, when available, to prequalified products.

The WHO said it will support countries that need to adapt the list to local needs and resources. The move assumes significance as many developing countries have a list of essential medicines but this is for the first time that any health agency has recommended adoption of diagnostics as critical to prevention of premature deaths through early management of diseases.

The last meeting of the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on In-Vitro Diagnostics was at Geneva. Ms Arunima Patel, founder of a leading diagnostic laboratory explained, "The Essential Diagnosis List will pave way for standardisation in the prescription and laboratory processes". It is also expected to issue a call for applications to add categories to the next edition.

Furthermore, WHO expects in the next years that the list will expand to also focus on antimicrobial resistance, emerging pathogens, neglected tropical diseases, or diseases that are not communicable.

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