Nigeria launches policy document to accelerate diseases diagnosis, treatment

Gloria Essien, Abuja

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Towards the acceleration of diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases in Nigeria, the Nigerian government has flagged off the dissemination of the National Essential Diagnostics List (NEDL).

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The minister of health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, says the launch was to ensure Nigerians have unhindered access to qualitative and affordable diagnostic testing services.

He said that the NEDL aims 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 it would also 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,” Dr. Ehanire said.

According him: “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.

To ensure nationwide implementation of this important document, we have also ensured the approval of this guidance document at the emergency meeting of the National Council on Health. By this, all states in the Federation are encouraged to implement the use of the document.

“The NEDL enlists 145 diagnostic test categories comprising 65 general In Vitro Diagnostics (IVDs) to aid the diagnosis of a range of disease conditions; 73 disease specific IVDs in clinical settings covering primary, secondary, tertiary and national reference laboratories and 7 IVDs for screening of blood donations. It also includes 12 general IVDs and 15 disease specific IVDs for use in community and health settings without laboratories.”

He also said that 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.

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

In his remarks, the WHO country representative in Nigeria, Dr. Walter Mulombo said that 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 that 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.

The World Health Organisation Director-General, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus had earlier said that 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.

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