WHO publishes its first Essential Diagnostics List

May 16, 2018 11:51 IST
WHO publishes its first essential diagnostics list

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on May 15, 2018 published its first 'Essential Diagnostics List', which is a catalogue of tests needed to diagnose the most common conditions along with a number of global priority diseases.

The list aims to address people's inability to access diagnostic services, which results in them failing to receive the correct treatment.

Speaking on the same, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that an accurate diagnosis is the first step to getting effective treatment. “No one should suffer or die because of lack of diagnostic services, or because the right tests were not available,” he added.


With the publication of the essential diagnostics list, WHO aims to provide a tool that can be useful to all countries, not only to test and treat health complications better but also to use health funds more efficiently by concentrating on the truly essential tests.

The list, similar to the WHO essential medicines list, which has been in use for four decades, is intended to serve as a reference for countries to update or develop their own list of essential diagnostics.


The list provides an essential package that can form the basis for screening and management of patients.

According to WHO, an estimated 46 per cent of adults with Type 2 diabetes worldwide were undiagnosed, risking serious health complications and higher health costs.

WHO stated that late diagnosis of infectious diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis increases the risk of their spread and makes them more difficult to treat.

Key Features of the list

• The essential diagnostics list concentrates on in-vitro tests like tests of blood and urine.

• It comprises 58 tests for detection and diagnosis of a wide range of common conditions.

• It also comprises 55 tests for the detection, diagnosis and monitoring of 'priority' diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, hepatitis B and C, human papillomavirus and syphilis.

• Some of the tests are particularly suitable for primary health care facilities, where laboratory services are often poorly resourced and sometimes non-existent for example, tests that can rapidly diagnose a child for acute malaria or glucometers to test diabetes.These tests do not require electricity or trained personnel.

• For each category of test, the list specifies the type of test and intended use, format and if appropriate for primary health care or for health facilities with laboratories.

• The list also provides links to WHO guidelines or publications and to pre-qualified products.


The World Health Organisation would be updating the essential diagnostics list on a regular basis. The body is also expected to issue a call for applications to add categories to the next edition.

The list is expected to expand significantly over the next few years, as it would incorporate other important areas including antimicrobial resistance, emerging pathogens, neglected tropical diseases and additional non-communicable diseases.

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