South American Union Defines Ideal Lab Networks, Supports Regional Cooperation

Strengthening national laboratory networks is essential to providing equal access to health, concluded participants in the Network of National Health Institutes from the South American Union (RINS/UNASUR) which met in April in Petropolis, Brazil, to discuss the development, mutual support and consolidation of the national networks of health laboratories. Hosted by Brazil’s FIOCRUZ, the gathering drew 10 of the 12 UNASUR countries including IANPHI member institutes from Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Peru. Representatives from the European Union and IANPHI were also present. The spirited meeting featured many back and forth discussions about the fundamental roles of laboratories within national health institutes and helped set the foundation for future collaboration between the RINS/UNASUR countries.

Social determinants of health—such as income disparities and access to health care—were examined in the opening session by Juan Garay, from Europeaids Development and Cooperation Office, and set the context for the rest of the meeting. Participants discussed the roles of health labs within the national health system, including surveillance, quality control for medical products, and research. Country representatives gave a detailed presentation about how laboratory networks function in their countries, highlighting how each country fulfills these roles within their own health and lab networks and funding and government structures. Every presenter spoke of how strengthening lab networks would close health care gaps and make public health more inclusive. Dr. Felix Rosenberg of FIOCRUZ insisted that laboratory tests are a right for every citizen and should be available to anybody who needs them.

Participants defined the ideal health lab network and outlined specific steps to achieve that within different country contexts. Conclusions and recommendations that will be considered by the participating countries for future planning included:
  • Development and strengthening of lab networks though RINS will contribute to local capacity while achieving regional goals of cooperation and integration of UNASUR countries
  • Topics discussed at the conference will set the technical standard moving forward relating to the quality, consolidation and sharing of data to make public health decisions
  • Information networks should be integrated to epidemiologic surveillance in each county
  • Management and quality of biosecurity in the laboratory networks needs to be strengthened
  • Evaluation indicators need to be developed and used throughout the laboratory networks
The network of National Institutes of Health of the Union of South American Nations (RINS/UNASUR) was established in March 2010, in Lima, Peru. Its main objective is to strengthen national national public health institutes through mutual cooperation and solidarity.

Attendees called the most recent meeting a great example of regional cooperation between public health institutes collaborating towards the common goal of improved public health for the citizens of each country.  Read the conclusions and recommendations (in Spanish).

"Laboratory tests are a right for every citizen and should be available to anybody who needs them."

—Felix Rosenberg, FIOCRUZ