WHO resolution on strengthening diagnostics capacity key for global progress

June 12, 2023 by PATH

In a groundbreaking move toward advancing universal health coverage (UHC) and health equity, the World Health Organization recently passed a significant resolution on strengthening diagnostics capacity. This resolution, adopted during the 76th World Health Assembly on May 23, 2023, aims to address the challenges related to access, affordability, and quality of diagnostic tests.

The importance of diagnostics

Diagnostics play a pivotal role in the journey toward UHC by enabling early detection, accurate diagnoses, and timely treatment of diseases. Access to high-quality diagnostics is essential to ensuring that all individuals, regardless of their financial resources, can receive appropriate and affordable health care services. Diagnostic tests empower health care providers to detect diseases, guide treatment decisions, and improve patient outcomes. However, numerous challenges impede progress toward UHC globally, including limited access to diagnostic tests, high costs, inadequate quality, and insufficient training of health care personnel. The new World Health Organization (WHO) resolution addresses these challenges, striving to overcome barriers and improve diagnostics capacity worldwide.

Strengthening diagnostics capacity improves health outcomes and strengthens health systems, making them more resilient to crises and better prepared to respond to health emergencies. By bolstering diagnostic services, health systems can effectively monitor diseases, respond to outbreaks, and implement targeted public health interventions.

"This resolution paves the way for a future where accurate and timely diagnoses equip individuals and communities with the health information they need to thrive," states Neha Agarwal, Diagnostics Program Co-Lead.

Top 5 elements of the WHO resolution on strengthening diagnostics capacity

Increased investment in research and development: The resolution highlights the critical need for greater investment in research and development for diagnostics. By fostering innovation, research can drive the development of affordable, accessible, and context-specific diagnostic tests suitable for low-resource settings. Technological advancements and novel approaches can help overcome barriers to access to diagnostics, especially in underserved regions.

Improved affordability and accessibility: The resolution emphasizes the importance of making diagnostics more affordable and accessible to individuals worldwide, irrespective of their socioeconomic status or geographical location. To achieve this, collaborative efforts are required to advocate for cost-effective diagnostic solutions, increase funding for diagnostics, and implement strategies to reduce financial barriers. Making diagnostics accessible to remote and underserved communities is vital to ensuring equitable health services.

Strengthened quality assurance: Recognizing the significance of quality assurance, the resolution emphasizes the need for stringent standards, rigorous quality control measures, and certification processes to ensure the accuracy and reliability of diagnostic tests. Adhering to these standards helps maintain the integrity of diagnostics and instills confidence in their results, promoting trust among health care providers and patients alike.

National diagnostic strategies: The resolution encourages countries to develop and implement national diagnostic strategies tailored to their unique needs and resource capacities. These strategies can identify country-specific challenges, allocate resources effectively, and establish sustainable frameworks for diagnostic services. Collaboration among international partners, governments, and health care stakeholders is crucial to supporting countries in their efforts to develop comprehensive diagnostic strategies.

Enhanced capacity strengthening: The resolution acknowledges the need to strengthen human resources, infrastructure, and laboratory systems to effectively deliver diagnostic services worldwide. Capacity-building initiatives, such as training programs, technology transfer, and infrastructure development, are essential to ensure that health care workers have the necessary skills and resources.

“The WHO resolution on strengthening diagnostics capacity is a remarkable step toward achieving UHC and promoting health equity,” states David Boyle, PATH Laboratory Director, and Diagnostics Program Co-Lead.

By prioritizing access to affordable and accurate diagnostics, we can transform health care systems globally, saving lives and improving the well-being of millions of people.