The Ugandan Ministry of Health, through funding from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, is rolling out external quality assurance (EQA) for malaria diagnostics across the country. Quality control reduces the likelihood of misdiagnosis and maintains the confidence of health service providers and consumers. This roll-out follows the adoption of national guidelines and the integration of EQA into the national malaria diagnostics strategy.
Together with the Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI, a Ugandan NGO attached to Makerere University’s College of Health Sciences), and other partners, Malaria Consortium has played a major role in the development of these guidelines. We have been supporting the Ministry of Health to improve the quality of malaria diagnostics for several years at district and national level and have provided support in the rollout of rapid diagnostic tests in our intervention areas. One of the aspects of this close cooperation has been the development of quality assurance systems for both microscopy and rapid diagnostic tests, including supporting the development and piloting of EQA systems in mid-western Uganda together with the Central Public Health Laboratory and the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP). This pilot led to the adoption of national guidelines which are now about to be applied to the rest of the country.
Under Global Fund Round 10, the Ministry of Health secured funding to scale up external quality assurance systems in 56 districts in the country. To ensure smooth roll-out, Malaria Consortium supported the orientation meeting which was held in Kampala in early August. The meeting, called by the Ministry of Health, brought together around 60 laboratory technicians from all over the country who had been selected to become central level trainers. Facilitators from the NCMP, IDI and Malaria Consortium outlined the background and details of the EQA intervention. These trainers will be in charge of rolling out and supervising external quality assurance activities. Participants were enthusiastic and expect that this intervention will have a strong impact on the quality of diagnostics in the country, leading to more accurate and reliable results.
This is an important step in building the sustainability of external quality assurance as a pillar intervention to improve the quality of diagnostics and thereby the quality of care at all levels of the health system. This orientation meeting will be followed by further training and support supervision of the activities along the implementation of Global Fund Round 10 (until December 2015). The Ugandan Ministry of Health is also currently in the process of securing further funding from the Global Fund to pursue and expand these activities after 2015. Malaria Consortium, having participated in the development of the application for further funding, will continue to provide technical support at central and district levels.