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ERIA Hosts Regional Consultative Meeting on National Essential Diagnostics Lists for ASEAN Member States

6 June 2024
Healthcare Unit
Healthcare Unit

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Bangkok, 6-7 June 2024: ERIA, in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other international partners, held the first Regional Consultative Meeting on National Essential Diagnostics Lists (NEDL) for ASEAN Member States (AMS). This meeting brought together government officials, technical experts, academics, and researchers from AMS and Timor-Leste. To enrich the discussions during the meeting, ERIA also invited experts from WHO (Geneva, SEARO, and WPRO), FIND (the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics), the National Center for Global Health and Medicine (NCGM), and the ASEAN Secretariat, as well as guest speakers from India and Nepal.

The regional event aligns with the World Health Assembly Resolution WHA 76.5 concerning the implementation of NEDL in member states and the urgent need to implement the diagnostic resolution to enhance Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and emergency preparedness. Diagnostics is further one of ASEAN’s three approaches to regional healthcare, and the one in need of more attention moving forward beyond 2025.

Dr Takuma Kato, Director of the Healthcare Unit, delivered the opening remarks, highlighting ERIA’s spearheading of the EDL Project in collaboration with WHO since 2021 as a fundamental project in the Healthcare Unit’s Access and Delivery Pillar. Moving forward from this regional meeting, ERIA hopes to elevate this project to the regional level to address the common challenges within ASEAN. Dr Kato assured that ERIA will continue to support AMS in emphasising diagnostics toward the development of resilient health systems and potentially enhancing the capacity of emerging responses.

Following Dr Kato, Dr Francis Gabriel Moussy, Lead, Secretariat of the WHO Model List of Essential In Vitro Diagnostics (the EDL), underscored the critical role that diagnostics play in providing quality healthcare services. This includes the identification of diseases and treatment of patients, as well as preventing, diagnosing, managing, and monitoring a wide range of both communicable and non-communicable diseases, and injuries and disabilities. WHO initiated the EDL as a global reference in 2018 and updates it every two years. At the country level, WHO supports states in deciding which IVD tests are appropriate, depending on local contexts and priorities. In the region, WHO has worked with ERIA since 2022 to identify the diagnostic gaps in the national healthcare systems of four AMS and Timor-Leste.

The second half of the morning session continued with presentations from WHO-SEARO's Mr Stephen Himley and WPRO's Dr Jinho Shin about the impact of EDL on UHC and emergency preparedness and how to develop an NEDL. On behalf of ERIA, Dr Antonio Villanueva, Senior Research Fellow, also gave a presentation on the role and support of ERIA to AMS in conducting gap assessments towards developing their NEDLs. The awareness session concluded with two experts from Nepal and India who shared their experiences in completing the NEDL development and implementation, respectively. Nepal detailed how a developing country can create its own NEDL, while India recommended its hub and spoke model, which consists of a community laboratory that can quickly accommodate nearby rural health units, for pilot implementation. After the awareness session, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Timor-Leste also shared their experiences in conducting gap assessments for EDL in their countries under the ERIA-WHO EDL project with support from WHO country offices. All sessions ended with ample time for Q&A.

The second day began with presentations from Brunei Darussalam, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Viet Nam to share their status on diagnostic lists and the possibility of collaboration with the regional EDL activities. Finally, the discussion moved to breakout sessions where participants were separated into three small groups: (1) countries that have been WHO EDL gap-assessed; (2) countries that have not conducted WHO EDL gap assessments; and (3) international organisations and guest speakers. All three groups reported on their common situations, challenges, and recommendations.

As the final part of the two-day meeting, ERIA led the wrap-up session where all participants contributed to drafting the Summary and Recommendations. As positive signs to move forward, necessary regional activities such as a regional situational analysis and capacity building were input by all representatives of AMS and participants. As promised, ERIA will continue coordinating this project with AMS and will report the outcomes and recommendations of this consultative meeting to the Senior Officials Meeting on Health Development (SOMHD) in Lao PDR this year.

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