WHA Resolution formally recognizes the vital role of diagnostics in delivering health for all, enabling countries to prioritize the resources needed to ensure everyone who needs a test can get one; A country-led International Alliance for Diagnostics will be formed to support the implementation of the Resolution; Adoption of the Resolution coincides with FIND marking its 20th anniversary.
At the 76th World Health Assembly last week, Member States voted to adopt a Resolution on strengthening diagnostics capacity, following a recommendation from the World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Board on 1 February 2023.
The WHA Resolution is a historic milestone on the path to health for all, enabling countries to prioritize the systems and resources needed to ensure everyone who needs a test can get one – wherever and whenever they seek care, in a hospital, at a clinic, or at home through self-tests. The Resolution ranges widely, covering testing for infectious and non-communicable diseases and health conditions, for pandemic prevention and preparedness, and to combat antimicrobial resistance. The Resolution also recognizes the need for national diagnostics strategies to be put in place and acknowledges that diagnostic data are critical to inform healthcare decision-making at every level.
The Resolution builds on recommendations from the 2021 Lancet Commission on diagnostics, chaired by Dr Kenneth Fleming. Negotiations were led by Eswatini on behalf of the Member States of the African Region. Indonesia was also a champion, building on their commitment earlier this year to improving access to essential diagnostic tests, as well as spotlighting diagnostics as part of their G20 agenda when they held the Presidency last year. The G20 Presidency passed to India at the end of 2022, and India has continued to keep testing central to the political health agenda.
To support the implementation of the Resolution, and to align with global goals for universal health coverage (UHC) and global health security, the Lancet Commission also identified the need for a formal, country-led, International Alliance for Diagnostics, with a focus on primary care, as a coordinated mechanism to drive access to testing. On the side-lines of the WHA, leaders from Eswatini, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia, met alongside WHO, PAHO, Africa CDC, FIND, and the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), and agreed unanimously on the path forward for an International Diagnostics Alliance. As WHO establishes a strategy and plan for implementing the terms of the Resolution, a series of regional consultations will be convened in Africa, Asia, and Latin America before the end of this year to define the structure and governance for the Alliance.
The adoption of the Resolution on diagnostics comes as FIND enters its 20th anniversary year, having been founded at the World Health Assembly in 2003. To mark the moment, FIND hosted a Diagnostics Day on 24 May alongside the WHA, at which FIND Chair Dr Ayoade Alakija, FIND CEO Dr Bill Rodriguez, and FIND senior staff were joined by experts in the field of global health, including (in alphabetical order):
- Dr Alexandre Costa, Senior Health Advisor, UNICEF
- Dr Ngozi Erondu, Technical Director, GLIDE
- Dr Marcos Espinal, Acting Assistant Director, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)
- Dr Kenneth Fleming, Chair, The Lancet Commission on diagnostics
- Dr Nyane Letsie, Director General Health Services, Ministry of Health Lesotho
- Dr Heulwen Philpot, Head of the International Pandemic Preparedness Secretariat
- Bawelile Philomena Sibili Simelane, Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini and lead negotiator of the WHA Resolution on diagnostics
- Professor Dr Woo Yin Ling, Co-founder of the ROSE Foundation
- Dr Howard Zucker, Deputy Director for Global Health, US CDC
Bill Rodriguez, FIND CEO, said at the Diagnostics Day event: “COVID-19 showed all of us that testing matters, and that testing requires the right diagnostic tools, trained health workers, laboratory infrastructure, data management systems, policies, and resources to be in place. Without the ability to test, not only are individuals and communities gravely affected, but economic and social catastrophe can follow. But while most of us have only just experienced what lack of testing means, prior to the pandemic four billion of the world’s poorest people – those with the least power – were already facing personal economic, and social catastrophe, without access to tests for tuberculosis, cervical cancer, Chagas disease, and many others. This is what the WHA Resolution on diagnostics addresses, and why it is so fundamental to improving health across the world.”