ASLM Announces 2021 Virtual Conference
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (17 August 2021). It is with great excitement that the African Society for Laboratory Medicine announces its 5th conference, which will take place virtually 15-18 November 2021. The conference theme, ‘Responding to Outbreaks Through Resilient Laboratory Systems: Lessons Learnt from the COVID-19 Pandemic’, will address critical issues facing African laboratories and laboratory professionals today and in the future.
The conference theme speaks to the pressing issues of the day: laboratory systems are vital to healthcare delivery and they need to cope with responding to disease outbreaks. As explained by conference co-chair Prof Isatta Wurie, ‘The COVID-19 pandemic exposed every weakness in public policies and health response systems, not just in Africa, but across the globe. Importantly, it also demonstrated the critical importance of diagnostics – and equitable access to them.’
As ASLM2021 also marks ASLM’s 10th anniversary, the conference will celebrate the many ways in which ASLM has been leading laboratory strengthening across the continent for the past decade. ‘For ten years ASLM has been the leading voice of the laboratory community in Africa,’ said Mr Nqobile Ndlovu, Chief Executive Officer of ASLM. ‘ASLM has worked in close partnership with ministries of health, laboratory professionals, diagnostics manufacturers, civil society, scientists, health development donors and implementing partners to develop, implement and improve diagnostic solutions tailored to Africa’s needs.’
The conference’s keynote session will feature Dr Tom Frieden, President and Chief Executive Officer of Resolve to Save Lives and former Director of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Commissioner of the New York City Health Department. He is known worldwide for creating infectious disease control programmes, establishing effective health department models, and leading successful outbreak responses. Conference plenary sessions will explore the impact of COVID-19 on health systems in Africa; highlight how the laboratory systems have responded to the crisis; and discuss the innovations, partnerships and collaborations that are needed to prepare for the next pandemic, while also addressing the routine health needs of African countries. The conference will explore the critical question: Beyond the damage caused by the COVID-19, what have we learnt that will make our laboratory systems stronger?
‘You cannot fix your health system when you need it. You must fix your health system before you need it,’ said Dr John Nkengasong, plenary session speaker and Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). ‘The ASLM2021 conference will be an excellent venue for in-depth discussion of the practical steps that must be taken to achieve this, including building capacity for rapid development and production of diagnostics and vaccines on the continent.’
Progress towards this goal will be a focus for the conference. Attendees will discuss new and already known issues for laboratories in Africa, including the threat of emerging pathogens and the need to strengthen and optimize diagnostics services for both routine clinical care and public health emergencies. New approaches and strategies to implement quality management systems in every laboratory, develop a sustainable laboratory workforce and use evidence to optimize laboratory network services will be discussed, among other topics.