Universal Health Coverage Day 2021

Dear FIND partners, friends, and colleagues,

We find ourselves marking Universal Health Coverage Day and the last days of 2021 with yet another COVID-19 wave affecting so many people in so many parts of the globe.

While much remains uncertain, the notion that diagnostics are fundamental to sustainable, resilient, equitable health systems – for people of all genders, ages, creeds, and economic status – is evident everywhere we look. I take this opportunity to congratulate political leaders who have embraced testing as central to their pandemic management strategies, including fast identification of new variants and a commitment to transparent sharing of data for the common good.

It is also painfully clear that the pandemic has slowed – and in some cases reversed – hard-fought gains against other diseases like malaria and tuberculosis, and in programmes for routine immunization and safe childbirth. As we work together globally to get back on track, we are faced with an unprecedented opportunity to apply the diagnostic innovation that the pandemic has spurred to address primary health care more broadly.

So, while the arrival of Omicron may have many of us feeling like we are almost back at square one, know that real progress has been made over the course of this past year. I have shared some highlights with you at the end of this note.

These achievements are the result of the resilience and resolve of our FIND family of partners and donors, and especially the health workers who have worked tirelessly to get diagnostic tests into the hands of those who need them. We thank you all for your incredible contributions.

We wish you a safe and restful holiday season and look forward to joining again with you in 2022 to make the world healthier and safer. On this UHC Day and beyond, we remain committed to a future that embraces quality diagnosis, prevention, and care for all.


2021 highlights: innovations and solutions that bring us closer to health for all

Innovative testing approaches to bring diagnosis into communities

Taxi ranks became a hub for COVID-19 testing in South Africa, while community health workers in India achieved remarkable success in reaching people with TB and non-communicable diseases so that they could be linked to care. Self-testing continues to gain traction, enabling more people to know their status anytime, anywhere for diseases ranging from hepatitis C to diabetes.

New diagnostic technologies that can help reach more people and eliminate diseases

Through a call for proposals by the FEND-TB partnership we reviewed more than 50 TB tests that harness COVID-19 testing advances to reach more people, including by simplifying sample collection. A new test was commercialized for sleeping sickness – easier to produce than previous tests, it will address supply and stock-out challenges, making testing more widely available. A design lock for a new test for gonorrhoea will enable rapid diagnosis and treatment at the point of care, helping break chains of transmission and helping clinicians tackle the dangerous rise of drug-resistant disease.

Unprecedented data collection and data sharing to inform decision-making

New digital tools leveraging real-time data for COVID-19 screening and detection can be applied to other disease areas, including gender- and age-disaggregated data. The AMR Dx Use Accelerator, a package of diagnostic interventions that includes a clinical algorithm to support healthcare workers in making informed treatment decisions, is contributing to a reduction in unnecessary antibiotic use for febrile illnesses in India and other countries. OptiDx, a tool supporting diagnostic network optimization to align with national health goals, reduce costs, and improve access to quality testing, will expand from 4 to 15 countries.

Increased investments in laboratory capacity that benefit entire health systems

Countries around the world had to rapidly ramp up testing and laboratory capacities to respond to COVID-19, including new tools for disease surveillance. This increased support is being leveraged to expand robust in-country capacity for diseases other than COVID-19. More countries are also looking to develop National Essential Diagnostics Lists to make high-quality diagnostic tests available, according to country-specific needs, accelerating timely and life-saving diagnoses.

Diagnostic testing is on the advocacy and policy agenda

This year saw the publication of the first Lancet Commission on Diagnostics, setting out a roadmap of 10 key steps that can stem inequities in access to tests. And testing remains one of the key pillars of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, alongside vaccines and treatments, which continues to provide a political platform at the highest levels and ensure diagnostics and testing remain a key part of the global conversation.

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