Nigeria flags off policy document to accelerate diseases diagnosis, treatment

As part of efforts toward accelerated diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases, the Nigerian government on Monday flagged off the dissemination of the National Essential Diagnostics List (NEDL).

Speaking at the event, the minister of health, Osagie Ehanire, said this was to ensure Nigerians have unhindered access to qualitative and affordable diagnostic testing services.

Mr Ehanire said the NEDL is anticipated to improve patients’ care, in-country diagnostic capacity, affordability of tests, regulation and quality of diagnostic tests, and capabilities of laboratories across the country.

He noted that the purpose is to provide evidence-based guidance to countries to create their own national lists of essential diagnostic tests and tools.

“It aims to also complement the list of essential medicines and enhance its impact,” he said.

Mr Ehanire also said Nigeria is the first country to develop her list in Africa and second in the world following India.

“Over the past few years, there has been increased recognition of the importance of diagnostic testing in healthcare, and especially in achieving the goal of universal health coverage (UHC), but until recently, there have been few strategic efforts designed to develop the evidence base on which policymakers can rationally increase and improve access to diagnostic testing,” he said.

He said the policy document was developed with support from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Global Fund.

EDL objectives

The first list of essential diagnostics was published in 2018, concentrating on HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, and hepatitis. The list was expanded in 2019 to include more non-communicable and communicable diseases.

The WHO added 12 tests to the list to detect a wide range of solid tumours such as colorectal, liver, cervical, prostate, breast, and germ cell cancers, as well as leukaemia and lymphomas.

To support appropriate cancer diagnosis, a new section covering anatomical pathology testing was added to be made available in specialised laboratories.

The diagnostics list focuses on additional infectious diseases prevalent in low- and middle-income countries such as cholera, and neglected diseases like leishmaniasis, schistosomiasis, dengue, and zika.

In addition, a new section for influenza testing was added for community health settings where no laboratories are available.

READ ALSO: Nigeria lacks sufficient PHCs for treatment of citizens – Ehanire

The WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus had earlier said access to quality tests and laboratory services is like having a good radar system that gets you where you need to go.

“Without it, you’re flying blind,” he said

Mr Ghebreyesus said all countries should pay particular attention to the diagnostics space and use the essential list to promote better health, keep their populations safe, and serve the vulnerable.

In his remarks, WHO country representative Walter Mulombo said the list is recommended in vitro diagnostics that should be available at the point of care and is intended as a guidance document for countries to create their national list based on their local context and needs.

Represented by WHO’s Public Health Emergency Advisor, Alexander Chimbaru, Mulombo said the overall goal of the EDL is to improve access to testing, diagnostic capacities during outbreaks, affordability of tests, regulation and quality of the diagnostic test.

“I encourage all states and health facilities to use the EDL as this will not only improve the health system capacity to reach accurate diagnosis but will save health resources wasted on inappropriate treatment and a long stay in the hospital,” he said.

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