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Wealthy-country answers just don’t fit

If doctors can’t correctly diagnose a disease, how can they treat it?

That’s what families are left to wonder in millions of villages, towns, and cities around the world that lack ready access to health care and the sophisticated laboratories that produce reliable diagnoses in wealthy countries.

In poor countries, health care facilities can be far away, serving widely dispersed populations. Specialized equipment, personnel, and safe waste-disposal systems just don’t exist.

Imagine taking your infant with a fever to the doctor and coming away with treatment options that even the doctors can’t be sure will help. Without diagnostic testing, health care professionals have to rely on just evaluating symptoms to diagnose and treat illness—an imperfect method given the similarity of symptoms between diseases.

This lack of clarity puts individuals, communities, and the world in danger. Incorrect diagnoses can harm people and even cost lives. And from a global perspective, ineffectively treated disease can become a starting point for epidemic or pandemic outbreaks.

Fortunately, there is an array of promising new tests in the pipeline—inexpensive, portable, easy-to-use diagnostics that are practical at even small, local health centers, delivering results the same day. Some are new takes on established technologies like the home pregnancy test. Others are exciting scientific advances.

PATH is at the forefront of this technology revolution, inventing and supporting the development of “point-of-care” diagnostic tests that will help families in poor countries to get fast results and the right treatment every time.

Photo: David Jacobs.

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