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FEATURE STORY

17 ways the East Africa Public Health Laboratory Networking Project Contributes to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals

October 28, 2015

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The United Nations is promoting a new sustainable development agenda by encouraging countries to adopt a set of global goals to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all. The World Bank-funded East Africa Public Health Laboratory Networking Project (EAPHLNP) is supporting the establishment of a network of laboratories to improve access to diagnostic services for vulnerable populations and strengthen disease outbreak preparedness. Working with the East, Central and Southern Africa Health Community, and in collaboration with the East African Community, the EAPHLNP is contributing directly or indirectly to achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

  1. No Poverty: EAPHNLP targets some of the poorest and most vulnerable groups in cross border areas of the five East African Community member states (Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda).  It improves access to high quality diagnostic services for those in remote areas, and contains the spread of communicable diseases which predominantly affect the poor, particularly women and children.  
  2. No Hunger: Ill health exacerbates poor nutrition. By diagnosing diseases more rapidly and more accurately, EAPHLNP is contributing to improved health and nutrition. Timely diagnosis of pathogens during disease outbreaks averts morbidity and reduces impact of poor health on nutrition outcomes. Healthier populations are more productive and are better able to engage in food production, increasing food reserves and reducing hunger.
  3. Good Health: EAPHLNP is funding new TB diagnostics and other molecular technologies to strengthen access to quality healthcare services, and training of health professionals to boost capacity for early diagnosis, risk reduction, and subsequent treatment and management of communicable diseases. Surveillance of antimicrobial agents to common pathogens in East Africa will assist to curb drug resistance.
  4. Quality Education: EAPHLNP is facilitating access to gold standard training programs for healthcare professionals in order to expand the pool of competent, experienced public health professionals, and assist them to attain higher academic qualifications (i.e. diplomas and degrees). Harmonization of training curricula and university accreditation of EAPHLN-developed courses for laboratory professionals will improve academic standards, strengthen quality of health services, and facilitate labor mobility in the East Africa region.
  5. Gender Equality: EAPHLNP is providing equal opportunities for staff training and employment for both males and females.
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation: EAPHLNP is building capacity of National Reference Laboratories to perform water quality testing to check for microbiological parameters, ensuring safe water, free of contamination of microbial agents, and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials.
  7. Renewable Energy: When upgrading laboratories, EAPHLNP participating countries strive to use clean energy sources which are naturally replenished on a human timescale, such as sunlight (i.e. use of solar panels) and rain (i.e. water sheds).
  8. Good Jobs and Economic Growth: The funding from the World Bank has created job opportunities at project-supported facilities which are increasingly recruiting degree holders.  The construction of new facilities has also generated jobs in remote, disadvantaged areas. More efficient management of epidemics averts the type of high socio-economic costs seen during the recent Ebola outbreak. Timely and more accurate diagnosis contributes to better health outcomes, improved productivity, and ultimately higher economic growth.
  9. Innovation and Infrastructure: EAPHLNP supports operational research to promote an evidence based approach and to identify new ways of doing business. ICT innovations (i.e. state of the art video conferencing, e-learning, mobile phone technologies) are being rolled out to strengthen communications within and across the EAC member states; to enhance on the job learning; and to improve transmission of critical data. Newly constructed or upgraded laboratories contribute to quality clinical care, bring services closer to beneficiaries, and protect the public against diseases and other health hazards.
  10. Reduced Inequalities: By targeting some of the most remote areas in East Africa, EAPHLNP is helping to reduce inequalities in access to and quality of diagnostic services. Implementation of Vulnerable and Marginalized Peoples Plans in several countries in East Africa aim to address inequalities in health care of indigenous groups.
  11. Sustainable Cities and Communities: EAPHLNP is promoting sustainable communities by building in appropriate environmental and social safeguards, and putting in place adequate waste management practices to ensure no harm to the environment from waste generated from the project-supported laboratories.
  12. Responsible Consumption: EAPHLNP is helping to roll out technologies with improved turnaround time and accuracy, allowing practitioners to place people under treatment more quickly and on the correct drug regimen, saving time and making more efficient use of costly resources. Improved access to diagnostic services in local communities reduces the need for shipping specimens to laboratories in urban areas, and makes optimal use of local resources. Good governance and fiduciary management practices supported under the project assist countries to ensure effective and efficient use of resources.
  13. Climate Action: EAPHLNP supports information technologies that are key to an effective and well-functioning public health system which needs to respond to disease outbreaks and the adverse effects of climate change.  Public health preparedness for predictive effects of climate change will become increasingly important in East Africa. Using a One Health Approach, health, enviroment and animal health experts in East Africa are gaining knowledge and experience in producing preparedness and response plans for specific diseases, which will be beneficial for assessing and addressing climate-related negative health effects.
  14. Life Below Water: When building or upgrading laboratories, the EAPHLNP aims to avoid or minimize adverse impacts on the environment. The project supported laboratories are encouraged and staff properly trained to pre-treat and decontaminate liquid biological waste before disposal to protect ecosystems.
  15. Life on Land: EAPHLNP is supporting the production of environmental and social management plans which systematically identify potential risks and propose remedial actions funded under the project, ensuring that the project is executed in a safe and sustainable environment while mitigating for risks to the surrounding ecosystems.
  16. Peace and Justice: Improved access to quality health services for poor and vulnerable groups contributes to establishment of inclusive societies. The South-South collaboration embedded in the project design fosters an environment of solidarity, whereby partner countries share knowledge and good practices, and assist each other, recognizing that you are only as strong as the weakest link.
  17. Partnerships for the SDGs: Partnerships have been critical to the success of the EAPHLNP. The project has established strong partnerships with local communities, development partners, private sector, and regional and international organizations. This has enabled the project to tap global knowledge and leverage financial and technical expertise to improve diagnostic services and strengthen public health in the five EAC partner states. 

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