Strengthening Diagnostic Services for Better Health Outcomes

by Amref Health Africa

Amref joined the Ministry of Health in celebrating a major milestone achieved by the National Public Health Laboratories (NPHL). NPHL plays a key role in healthcare through disease surveillance, control, and management of disease outbreaks.

While proper diagnosis of diseases remains a key challenge in the provision of proper care to patients globally, Kenya has enhanced its diagnostic services through the accreditation of the NPHL with ISO certification. NPHL is a conglomerate of 8 laboratories of which 5 have received ISO accreditations.

In the past, Kenya did not have the capacity to conduct sophisticated testing. Samples that required specialized testing needed to be shipped abroad. Speaking during the celebration which took place on October 13, 2021, the Cabinet Secretary for Health Mutahi Kagwe noted that, “the equipment and skills that NPHL has received in the past 4 years have allowed the facility to expand its national and regional testing capacity and reduced the need to ship clinical, research, and surveillance samples”.

Other achievements of NPHL include the creation of the Department of Health Services; increased testing of cancer samples from 600 in 2019 to 3, 000 samples in the financial year 2020/21. Additionally, the NPHL has migrated from a mono discipline to a multidisciplinary institution accommodating other cadres including, IT staff, scientists, statisticians and biomedical engineers. This will enable NPHL to participate in research implementation.

According to Kagwe, “the accreditation and accumulation of the key competencies also underpin the identification of the first Covid -19 in Kenya in March 2021. This support has enabled Kenya to rapidly increase testing sites support has allowed Kenya to rapidly increase testing sites from the initial one site in March 2020 to 95 sites currently testing for COVID-19 using PCR methods, and another 461 sites testing for COVID-19 using Rapid Antigen kits”.

The CS lauded the research and development partners who have played a key role in the advances that NPHL has done so far including the Center for Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), Amref Health Africa, Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), Kenya Accreditation Service (KENAS), World Bank, Global Fund, KEMRI and USAID among others.

Under the revised International Health Regulations (IHR), disease surveillance, diagnosis, prevention, treatment and health promotion all require sound and reliable laboratory services. Equally, efficient and reliable health laboratory systems are an essential component of any resilient health system and are central to achieving sustainable development goals. To this end, Amref has been working with laboratories countrywide to ensure that they meet accepted standards in all aspects of laboratory operations, and provide quality and reliable diagnostic services to communities.

Currently, Amref is implementing the Sustainable Laboratory Quality Systems (SLQS) for HIV/TB Epidemic Control in the Republic of Kenya under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). SLQS coordinates and supports the Kenya Ministry of Health (MOH) Division of National Public Health Laboratories (NPHL), National HIV Viral Load and Early Infant Diagnosis (VL/EID) referral laboratories and other relevant National Health departments to provide quality laboratory network systems that support timely, efficient and reliable services along the clinical cascade for HIV/TB patients.

Written by Edna Mosiara, Communications Officer, Amref Health Africa in Kenya

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