Lessons from the Field

Tropical Laboratory Initiative: An innovative model for laboratory medicine in rural areas

Zelda R. Moran, Atta B. Frimpong, Pablo Castañeda-Casado, Francis K. Frimpong, Manuela B. de Lorenzo, Yanis Ben Amor
African Journal of Laboratory Medicine | Vol 8, No 1 | a922 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajlm.v8i1.922 | © 2019 Zelda R. Moran, Atta B. Frimpong, Pablo Castañeda-Casado, Francis K. Frimpong, Manuela B. de Lorenzo, Yanis Ben Amor | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 October 2018 | Published: 26 September 2019

About the author(s)

Zelda R. Moran, Earth Institute, Columbia University, New York, New York, United States
Atta B. Frimpong, Millenium Promise Alliance, Accra, Ghana
Pablo Castañeda-Casado, GlaxoSmithKline, Brentford, United Kingdom
Francis K. Frimpong, Millenium Promise Alliance, Accra, Ghana
Manuela B. de Lorenzo, GlaxoSmithKline, Brentford, United Kingdom
Yanis Ben Amor, Center for Sustainable Development, Earth Institute, Columbia University, New York, New York, United States


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Abstract

Background: Communities in rural, low-resource settings often lack access to reliable diagnostics. This leads to missed and misdiagnosed cases of disease and contributes to morbidity and mortality.

Objective: This paper describes a model for providing local laboratory services to rural areas of Ghana, and provides suggestions on how it could be adapted and expanded to serve populations in a range of rural communities.

Methods: The Tropical Laboratory Initiative (TLI) system in Ghana comprises one central laboratory where samples delivered from clinics by motorbike riders are analysed. Test requests and results are communicated on a mHealth application, and the patient does not have to visit the laboratory or travel beyond the clinic to receive a test. The TLI also serves as a research base. The laboratory is accredited by the National Health Insurance Authority, and accepts the national health insurance. The TLI serves several communities in Amansie West, Ashanti region, and currently works with 10 clinics. The nearest hospital is a one-hour drive away and is the only other nearby facility for diagnostics beyond basic rapid tests.

Results: Demand for services has increased yearly since the launch in 2010, and the TLI currently provides over 1000 tests to approximately 350 patients monthly. The majority of patients are female, and the most common tests are for antenatal care. Our experience demonstrates that laboratory services can be affordable and most components already exist, even in rural areas.

Conclusion: Ministries of health in low-resource settings should consider this model to complement the rapid tests available in clinics. Integrating with an insurance system promotes financial sustainability.


Keywords

laboratory; burden of disease; community health; data quality; disease reporting; epidemiology; global health; health services; maternal and child health; rural health

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