Partners meet to discuss how better labs mean better outcomes for patients

Some 60 participants met in Copenhagen at a two day regional meeting to discuss strengthening laboratory capacities to support national programs in eastern Europe and central Asia on 17 and 18 June. The meeting was jointly organized under the Better Labs for Better Health initiative and also a new initiative called Strengthening Laboratory Capacities to Support National Programs on HIV Prevention Treatment and Care in eastern Europe and central Asia.

On the agenda was how the initiative can build sustainable laboratory capacities in the WHO European Region. More specifically, the meeting addressed the progress and reforms achieved by Member States and examined the programmes already in place for quality management and laboratory strengthening. Lastly there were discussions about how policy-makers can influence the quality of lab services leading to better outcomes for patients.

Shoulder to shoulder for better labs

Nine Member States were represented at the meeting: Republic of Moldova, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Russian Federation, Armenia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan. Some major donors and partners were also present and these included WHO, UNDP and The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency, U.S. CDC, Royal Tropical Institute (Netherlands), Public Health England, Robert Koch Institute and WHO – Supranational Reference Laboratory of Tuberculosis, Gauting (Germany), Fondation Mérieux (France).

The meeting provided a much-needed opportunity for the partners to present the current state of laboratory networks and issues related to laboratory quality standards and accreditation in the Region. Crucially the group also defined the most pressing needs, including the following.

  • WHO is well placed to take on the role of advocate for strict regulation and accreditation of laboratories in line with accepted standards. This should be defined in national laboratory policies.
  • Integration of services, eg. public health and clinical diagnostic laboratories, is needed
  • Appropriately trained and motivated laboratory staff must be ensured
  • Capacities to maintain and certify equipment, particularly biosafety cabinets, must be strengthened
  • Logistics should be taken into account when defining laboratory networks and services

A report describing mainstream discussions, conclusions and plans for way forward as a result of this regional meeting will be published in due course.