To improve access to diagnostics, countries must adapt the WHO Essential Diagnostics List

Diagnostics have always received little attention in global health, in comparison to drugs and vaccines. But the Covid-19 pandemic has shown the world the critical importance of early and rapid diagnosis, for clinical management of illness as well as for containing outbreaks.

On 29th January 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) released the third edition of its Model List of Essential In Vitro Diagnostics (EDL). This edition includes WHO-recommended Covid-19 tests (nucleic acid as well as antigen detection tests), expands the suite of tests for vaccine-preventable and infectious diseases and non-communicable diseases (such as cancer and diabetes), and introduces a section on endocrinology. Country governments must now adopt and adapt the WHO EDL, to ensure improved access to diagnostics in countries.

Rationale for an EDL

Analogous to the WHO Essential Medicines List (EML), the EDL is a package of recommended tests that should be available in every country, at various levels of the healthcare delivery system (infographic). Access to tests matters, since diagnosis is the first step to correct disease management and containment of outbreaks. “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,” said WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“More than ever, as we go through this pandemic, we see the importance of diagnostics, and how we run blind in the face of illness, if we don’t have accurate, easy-to-use, and affordable means to diagnose early,” said Mariângela Simão, WHO Assistant-Director General for Access to Medicines and Health Products, speaking at the launch event webinar.

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