Giving health a helping hand

13 April 2007 | Story by Megan Morris

According to Dr Deborah Hay Burgess of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the right diagnostic tools could save many lives in the developing world each year.

With the understandable focus on vaccines and drugs, diagnostics has become the "forgotten stepchild of global health", says Dr Deborah Hay Burgess of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).

Addressing students and academics at the Faculty of Health Sciences on 11 April, Burgess spoke of the costs of overlooking diagnostic technology in fighting some of the developing world's killer diseases. "There are many examples where we have new drugs, but we don't have the diagnostics to diagnose the patient we want to administer the drug to," she said.

Burgess also outlined the work of the BMGF's Global Health Diagnostics Forum to develop diagnostic tools suited to conditions in the developing world. That research and some of its results were featured in a supplement to Nature.

The payoff for the right technology would be dramatic, said Burgess, saving hundreds of thousands of lives each year.

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