Caribbean Ministers Endorse Regional Framework for National Laboratory Policy

The 19th Special Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) held in Washington DC, 27-28 September, 2014 has endorsed an initiative to improve the laboratory environment which the Caribbean Med Labs Foundation is facilitating under its CARICOM-PANCAP Global Fund Programme. A team of regional experts, with CMLF facilitation, developed the Regional Framework for National Laboratory Policy, to guide countries with planning and managing the increasingly challenging laboratory environment. CMLF Director-Laboratory Management Specialist, Ms Valerie Wilson, presented the Framework to the COHSOD, on behalf of the regional team which developed it.

Country-level action on this framework is particularly urgent, as the region is facing an ongoing challenge from the severe epidemic of chronic diseases (including diabetes, heart disease, cancers and HIV), as well as ever-increasing threats posed by communicable diseases such as the already widespread regional epidemic of Chikungunya  and the global threat of Ebola.

The COHSOD decision follows the initial endorsement of the framework by Chief Medical Officers in April this year. Specifically, the COHSOD: Endorsed the Regional Laboratory Policy Framework; and Requested Member States to provide leadership at the national level to support adaptation and implementation of the National Laboratory Policy Framework.

CMLF is stressing the urgency of developing National Laboratory Policy to guide planning and implementation for the management of these and other rapidly emerging challenges with very limited resources. The Foundation is also underscoring that the development and implementation of National Laboratory Policy is a key requirement for national laboratory infrastructure under the International Health Regulations.

The resource challenges and current disease threats demand that countries approach the national laboratory service (both public and private), in as structured, strategic, efficient and cost-effective a manner as possible.  The environment for delivering an effective national laboratory service is unfortunately likely to become even more challenging in the short to medium term.

Some countries have already led the way and quite quickly and successfully with CMLF  facilitation, initiated and/or completed comprehensive drafts of their national laboratory policy using the generic framework, and have begun the process of accessing the necessary approvals and developing and initiating implementation plans. The Foundation stands ready to provide continuing support for this process.

Those countries that have not yet begun the process would still be able to access assistance to do so. This can be done by contacting CMLF to discuss and agree on the earliest opportunity to initiate this very critical process for adaptation of the regional framework to develop their National Laboratory Policy. Funding for CMLF to facilitate this process under the Global Fund Round 9 programme will end next year, so we urge all countries to take advantage of this opportunity as soon as possible.

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