Assessing the impact of regional laboratory networks in East and West Africa on national health security capacities

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



PLOS global public health








National laboratories are a fundamental capacity for public health, contributing to disease surveillance and outbreak response. The establishment of regional laboratory networks has been posited as a means of improving health security across multiple countries. Our study objective was to assess whether membership in regional laboratory networks in Africa has an effect on national health security capacities and outbreak response. We conducted a literature review to select regional laboratory networks in the Eastern and Western African regions. We examined data from the World Health Organization Joint External Evaluation (JEE) mission reports, the 2018 WHO States Parties Annual Report (SPAR), and the 2019 Global Health Security Index (GHS). We compared the average scores of countries that are members of a regional laboratory network to those that are not. We also assessed country-level diagnostic and testing indicators during the COVID-19 pandemic. We found no significant differences in any of the selected health security metrics for member versus non-member countries of the either the East Africa Public Health Laboratory Networking Project (EAPHLNP) in the Eastern Africa region, nor for the West African Network of Clinical Laboratories (RESAOLAB) in the Western Africa region. No statistically significant differences were observed in COVID-19 testing rates in either region. Small sample sizes and the inherent heterogeneities in governance, health, and other factors between countries within and between regions limited all analyses. These results suggest potential benefit in setting baseline capacity for network inclusion and developing regional metrics for measuring network impact, but also beyond national health security capacities, other effects that may be required to justify continued support for regional laboratory networks.


Public Health Student Works