Say you’re a well being ministry staffer for a small nation within the creating world or a well being division chief in a tiny American county. Your boss has simply assigned you to guage the greater than 1,000 COVID-19 diagnostic exams obtainable worldwide and make a suggestion on which one your company can purchase.
A new online data dashboard tool from Seattle-based nonprofit PATH has offered place to begin for greater than 2,000 public well being officers, most of them from outdoors the U.S.
“We’ve been fairly positively stunned with the quantity of person interplay we’ve onerous,” mentioned Neha Agarwal, a senior commercialization officer with PATH. “It’s reaching quite a lot of the low-income international locations that we had been hoping we’d attain.”
PATH in late November launched the Tableau-based dashboard that gives at-a-glance summaries and tables of essential info associated to COVID-19 diagnostic exams.
The objective was two-fold. For starters, the info is crucial to assist decision-makers worldwide navigate via the “tidal wave” of exams obtainable to detect COVID-19, mentioned Roger Peck, a venture supervisor at PATH.
In contrast to vaccines, which undergo a strictly regulated course of, the boundaries to entry for COVID exams is low, Agarwal mentioned. And since this can be a world pandemic that’s affecting probably the most prosperous nations of the world, there’s quite a lot of money obtainable to develop exams.
“Diagnostic firms flooded the market, as a result of abruptly there’s cash to be made,” she mentioned. “These exams aren’t that arduous to fabricate.”
Inside a couple of months there have been a whole bunch of exams obtainable. However out of all these exams, solely 22 have acquired emergency-use listings from the World Well being Group, which is the gold customary in public well being.
That doesn’t essentially imply that the remainder are unhealthy, Peck mentioned. A whole bunch have been authorized by regulatory companies within the U.S. or different international locations. Many had been developed early within the pandemic, however have been outmoded by newer, more-accurate methods. And a few could also be completely legitimate, however had been developed by firms that don’t know the way to navigate the regulatory course of.
That makes it extraordinarily troublesome for public well being officers to guage them, Peck mentioned — particularly in international locations already battling different endemic illnesses.
PATH’s dashboard helps well being officers zero in on which exams work finest given their circumstances and what’s obtainable and reasonably priced — for instance, which exams can be found regionally, or which may be imported.
To this point, the dashboard has attracted greater than 2,000 distinctive guests, Agarwal mentioned, with about 70% from outdoors the U.S., together with some federal companies.
The dashboard additionally highlights world inequities in entry to healthcare. It exhibits that greater than 900 of the 1,100 obtainable exams have been developed in simply 4 international locations: the U.S., China, Japan and the UK. Alternatively, your complete continent of South America has entry to solely 10 home-grown COVID diagnostic exams; Africa has solely six.
That knowledge helps increase consciousness to international locations that need assistance securing COVID testing, Agarwal mentioned. “We’re not going to unravel all these inequities,” Agarwal mentioned. “However we have to perceive the place these diagnostic deserts are.”