Diseases and Diagnostics

Access to appropriate and reliable innovations is essential to the improvement of public health in low-income settings and more broadly, reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Lessons from the Millennium Development Goals era have shown that an integrated approach is needed to implement and reach the SDGs, but it remains difficult to achieve as many sectors and interventions still operate in “silos”. Innovations can be the key to interconnectedness in public health, linking ways to identify disease, rolling out effective vaccination strategies, designing treatment plans, monitoring the effectiveness of interventions, and understanding drug resistance. 

Diagnostics and Innovations

The Center for Sustainable Development (CSD) at Columbia University has an interest in filling this research and operational gap by breaking down the silos and making innovations more readily available, especially to populations in rural and remote areas. 

We conduct research with four primary objectives:

  • To reduce the number of missed and misdiagnosed cases of communicable and non-communicable diseases.
  • To provide an entry point into clinical care, particularly through the delivery ofdiagnostics and treatment at the household level
  • To significantly reduce morbidity and mortality associated with malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), neglected tropical diseases, and pregnancy-related complications.
  • To increase health literacy, and to improve access to health information and health services

Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is an increasingly important component of health initiatives designed to reach populations with limited access to healthcare.  Numerous electronic Health (eHealth) and mHealth tools have been developed for use with both simple feature phones and smartphones.  While many of these projects have become well established and have proven impact, it is also common for programs to shut down after a pilot period, often leaving communities without services they had come to depend on. It is therefore crucial that as ICT continues to develop and integrate into health systems, sustainability and impact evaluation must be prioritized.  Our team is interested in designing mHealth tools that work within existing health systems and leverage existing infrastructure and resources. We have worked with companies and nonprofits to rethink their design of mHealth applications to better suit the needs of the population and better fit into locally available technologies and communication systems.

The Tropical Laboratory Initiative

The Tropical Laboratory Initiative (TLI) is designed to rethink the traditional laboratory and make diagnostics more readily available to patients in rural and remote areas. The goal of TLI is to develop and validate an integrated package of diagnostics that can be easily deployed at the point of care in remote rural communities. TLI  focuses on building human capacity and competency; adapts the physical infrastructure of laboratories to rural settings; equips laboratories with reliable, affordable, and context-appropriate diagnostic tools and equipment; develops improved processes and quality control protocols; and works with the government to integrate TLI-supported labs into the existing health systems.

Ensuring that diagnostic tools are available not only at referral centers, but also at local facilities and even households, allows diagnosis to be made quickly so that patients are able to rapidly commence appropriate and often life-saving treatment. The project has developed and validated an integrated package of diagnostics that can be administered at the point of care in sub-Saharan Africa, with a specific focus on making the latest high-impact, low-cost technologies available. 

For more information on the Tropical Laboratory Initiative, visit http://www.tropicallab.org or contact Dr. Yanis Ben Amor.

Tropical Laboratory Initiative


Sebba D, Lastovich AG, Kuroda M, Fallows E, Johnson J, Ahouidi A, Honko AN, Fu H, Nielson R, Carruthers E, Diédhiou C, Ahmadou D, Soropogui B, Ruedas J, Peters K, Bartkowiak M, Magassouba N, Mboup S, Ben Amor Y, Connor JH, Weidemaier K. A point-of-care diagnostic for differentiating Ebola from endemic febrile diseases. Sci Transl Med. 2018 Dec 12;10(471)

Moran Z, Sacks JA, Frimpong FK, Frimpong AB, Ben Amor Y. Performance of the BD-FACS Presto for CD4 count and hemoglobin measurement in a district hospital and rural laboratory in Ghana. PLoS One. 2019 Feb 22;14(2):e0212684

Moran ZR, Frimpong AB, Castañeda-Casado P, Frimpong FK, de Lorenzo MB, Ben Amor Y. Tropical Laboratory Initiative: An innovative model for laboratory medicine in rural areas. Afr J Lab Med. 2019 Sep 26;8(1):922

Dowden J, Mushamiri I, McFeely E, Apat D, Sacks J, Ben Amor Y. The impact of "male clinics" on health-seeking behaviors of adult men in rural Kenya. PLoS One. 2019 Nov 21;14(11)