NAIROBI, April 27 (Xinhua) -- The growing burden of infectious and non-communicable diseases in Africa will only be tamed once the continent prioritizes investments in modern diagnostic equipment, some executives said on Thursday at a briefing in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital.
African countries are grappling with diagnostic gaps at public health facilities, leading to a high rate of undetected killer ailments in the general population, said Allan Pamba, executive vice president of Roche Diagnostics Africa, a multinational pharmaceutical firm.
According to Pamba, upgrading equipment for screening malaria, HIV and AIDS, hepatitis, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer will strengthen their treatment and care while averting a high fatality rate among patients.
"Though we are turning the corner on infectious disease as a continent, there is a need to invest in diagnostic infrastructure for screening emerging non-communicable diseases like cancer and chronic heart diseases," Pamba said, adding that reskilling of laboratory technologists in Africa and investing in digital tools will boost surveillance, detection and treatment of vector-borne and lifestyle diseases.
Taofik Oloruko-Oba, acting head of East and Anglophone West Africa, Roche Diagnostics Africa, stressed that a new vision for robust and well-functioning diagnostic infrastructure at Africa's public health facilities was long overdue, to help cope with a growing burden of diseases linked to unhealthy lifestyles.
Oloruko-Oba said that the priority among policymakers should be making sure that all citizens have access to timely, quality and affordable diagnoses for killer diseases at local health facilities.
The COVID-19 pandemic illustrated the urgency for African countries to invest in robust and home-grown diagnostic infrastructure as a means to avert mass fatalities, said Oloruko-Oba, who called for strategic partnerships between governments and industry to help bridge diagnostic gaps in Africa's public healthcare facilities, and enhance screening of disease-causing pathogens.
Jonathan Keytel, director of Strategy and Healthcare Transformation, Roche Diagnostics Africa, said African states should invest in a broad portfolio of diagnostic equipment to boost screening of diseases as part of the universal healthcare agenda.
Governments should enact policies and legislation that guide quality diagnosis at every level of healthcare delivery in the continent in order to boost response to emerging diseases, Keytel added. ■