A key component of any health system is the capacity to accurately diagnose individuals. One of the six building blocks of a health system as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) includes diagnostic tools. The WHO’s Noncommunicable Disease Global Action Plan includes addressing the lack of diagnostics for noncommunicable diseases, through multi-stakeholder collaborations to develop new technologies that are affordable, safe, effective and quality controlled, and improving laboratory and diagnostic capacity and human resources. Many challenges exist beyond price and availability for the current tools included in the Package of Essential Noncommunicable Disease Interventions (PEN) for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases. These include temperature stability, adaptability to various settings (e.g. at high altitude), need for training in order to perform and interpret the test, the need for maintenance and calibration, and for Blood Glucose Meters non-compatible meters and test strips. To date the issues surrounding access to diagnostic and monitoring tools for noncommunicable diseases have not been addressed in much detail. The aim of this Commentary is to present the current landscape and challenges with regards to guidance from the WHO on diagnostic tools using the WHO REASSURED criteria, which define a set of key characteristics for diagnostic tests and tools. These criteria have been used for communicable diseases, but so far have not been used for noncommunicable diseases. Diagnostic tools have played an important role in addressing many communicable diseases, such as HIV, TB and neglected tropical diseases. Clearly more attention with regards to diagnostics for noncommunicable diseases as a key component of the health system is needed.
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