Availability and Prices of WHO Essential Diagnostics in Laboratories in West Africa: A Landscape Survey of Diagnostic Testing in Northern Ghana

Caleb L. Ward, Marissa Z. Guo, Timothy K. Amukele, Abass Abdul-Karim, Lee F. Schroeder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: We determined the availability and pricing of laboratory testing in the Northern Region of Ghana to identify current gaps with respect to the WHO's Essential Diagnostics List (EDL). Methods: A representative sample of facilities offering diagnostic testing within the Northern Region was geographically mapped and evaluated, with random sampling stratified by population density. Data were collected on testing menus, volumes, turn-around times, and out-of-pocket test prices. A total of 27 health centers and 39 clinical laboratories were surveyed between June and August 2019. Results: Health centers offered a median of 2 of 20 tests recommended by the WHO for facilities without laboratories. The most common tests offered included point-of-care tests for malaria, HIV, and pregnancy. Clinical laboratories offered a median of 11 of 72 tests on the EDL. These facilities most commonly provided testing for malaria, HIV, pregnancy, HBsAg, urinalysis, HCV Ab, syphilis, glucose, and CBC. Urban laboratories had a total of 36 EDL tests available while rural laboratories had 12. Test prices were higher in private compared to public laboratories. National Health Insurance reimbursements were lower than out-of-pocket prices (38%), and when controlling for test price, test availability was negatively associated with this gap in reimbursement. Conclusions: Availability of diagnostic testing in Ghana's Northern Region is severely limited compared to the WHO's EDL. The disparity is pronounced in rural facilities. Reimbursement rates should be reset to more closely match out-of-pocket test prices in order to achieve the Universal Health Coverage target of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-62
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Applied Laboratory Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021


  • World Health Organization
  • laboratory capacity
  • low-and-middle-income country (LMIC)
  • regional survey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Chemical Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Medicine(all)
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Availability and Prices of WHO Essential Diagnostics in Laboratories in West Africa: A Landscape Survey of Diagnostic Testing in Northern Ghana'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this