Essential Diagnostic List

UPSC Exam Preparation: Topic of the Day – Essential Diagnostic List

In the present day world, many people across the globe are unable to get their diseases diagnosed at an early stage due to the inaccessibility to the diagnostic services. Late diagnosis of infectious diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis increases the risk of spread and makes them more difficult to treat. The first step to effective treatment is accurate diagnosis. To address this gap, the World Health Organisation (WHO) published the first list of Essential Diagnostics. Essential Diagnostic List is a catalogue of tests needed to diagnose the most common conditions as well as a number of global priority diseases published with the aim of addressing the inability of people in accessing diagnostic services which prevents them from receiving effective corrective treatment.



  • The list focuses on in vitro tests i.e, tests for human specimens like blood and urine.
  • The Essential Diagnostics List was developed following an extensive consultation within WHO and externally. The draft list was then considered for review by WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on In-Vitro Diagnostics – a group of 19 experts with global representation.
  • It consists of 113 products. 58 tests listed for detection and diagnosis of a wide variety of common conditions, providing an essential package that can form the basis for screening and management of patients.
  • 55 tests are designed for the detection, diagnosis and monitoring of “priority” diseases such as syphilis, human papillomavirus, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, malaria, tuberculosis and HIV.
  • Some of the tests are particularly suitable for primary health care facilities, where laboratory services are often poorly resourced and sometimes non-existent. These tests do not require electricity or trained personnel. While the other tests are more sophisticated and therefore intended for larger medical facilities.
  • For each category of test, the Essential Diagnostics 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, similar to the Essential Medicines List that has been in use for four decades now, serves as a reference for the countries to develop and update their own Essential Diagnostic Lists. WHO would provide support to the countries as and when they adapt the list to their local context.
  • The list would be updated by the WHO on a regular basis. A call for application to add categories to the next edition would be issued by the WHO so as to incorporate other important areas such as neglected tropical diseases, emerging pathogens, anti-microbial resistance and additional non communicable diseases.


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