Laboratories are fundamental components of health systems, critical in routine and emergency contexts for both disease surveillance and health services for communicable and non-communicable diseases. Although laboratories are a core national competency for providing quality clinical care, responding to international mandates, and setting priorities, investments in strengthening laboratory systems have often been inconsistent and inadequate in African countries. This underinvestment has left vulnerabilities which came to light during recent health emergencies, including the COVID-19 pandemic, and highlight the need for long-term investments with benefits that extend beyond individual country borders.
This paper qualitatively establishes the complex costs and benefits of strengthening laboratory capacity and systems within and across national borders. Costs are presented as direct and indirect, while benefits are presented at the individual, population, and health-system levels. Each cost and benefit grouping is further divided into thematic subcategories. This paper demonstrates that investments in laboratory systems can yield considerable and wide-ranging benefits. While these investments require comprehensive financing, their impacts are potentially transformative.
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