The ability of health providers to correctly detect, identify, and monitor diseases is critically important to high-quality patient care and allows for an accurate assessment of disease progression, development of an appropriate treatment plan, and evaluation of how well treatment and care interventions are working.
In low- and middle-income countries, however, the diagnostic tests and services needed to evaluate patients are often unavailable, inaccessible, or too expensive. Without tools to detect and monitor many of the most burdensome diseases, health providers must make a diagnosis based on clinical symptoms alone, which can translate to inappropriate care or treatment, advanced disease progression, development of drug resistance, and negative health outcomes for the patient. The lack of access to diagnostics and related laboratory services often stems from a scarcity of trained staff, insufficient resources, inaccurate procedures, and inadequate quality assurance protocols.
To address these challenges, SIAPS, along with global and in-country partners, supported the development of national policies to strengthen diagnostics and laboratory management systems. SIAPS provided specific technical assistance in the following areas:
- Infrastructure, biosafety, and waste management
- Laboratory management
- Capacity building
- Commodity management and inventory control
- Selection, specification, and quantification of equipment and diagnostic commodities
- Laboratory referral systems
- Disease-specific technical procedures
- Quality assurance
- Data management
Through USAID’s TB CARE I project, SIAPS worked with its partners to establish a regional reference laboratory in East Africa, produce guidelines for purchasing high-quality laboratory products, and revise and field-test standard operating laboratory procedures for tuberculosis (TB). In addition, SIAPS helped assess and build the capacity of health providers to implement new diagnostic tools; improve the detection of TB, including multidrug-resistant and extensively drug-resistant TB; monitor treatment progress; document patient outcomes; and improve patient care.
Consistent with the WHO Global Malaria Programme’s Initiative – T3: Test, Treat and Track, SIAPS collaborated with ministries of health, local partners, and community health workers to support accurate malaria diagnosis through the use of proven tools like microscopy or rapid diagnostic tests. SIAPS trained health care providers and made rapid diagnostic tests for malaria available at the facility and community levels in both the public and private sectors.