Addressing Social, Cultural and Historical, Factors Limiting the Contribution of Medical Laboratory services to antenatal care in West Africa


The aim of the project is to contribute to the achievement of Millennium Development Goal 5 (MDG5) by understanding the factors that undermine effective laboratory services in antenatal care (ANC). Research question: How do practical, organisational, economic, sociocultural and historical factors contribute to the underutilisation of laboratory diagnostics in ANC in West Africa in general and Senegal in particular?


Laboratory screening of conditions that threaten maternal and child health is a key component of antenatal care (ANC) and crucial to the achievement of health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) such as MDG5 (Maternal Health). The lack of infrastructural and human resource capacity in clinical laboratories in Africa is the main barrier to test utilization. Hence, international and national stakeholders have advocated for the strengthening of laboratories as indispensable to support access to health in resource-poor setting. Despite the current efforts and the impressive resources made available, medical laboratories still face major challenges and have a limited contribution to health care delivery, especially in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). We postulate that sociocultural and historical factors exist that exacerbate the lack of financial resources an adversely influence the position and functioning of laboratory services on various levels within the medical sector and in society, more generally.

The project examines how organizational, political, sociocultural and historical factors shape the views of health policymakers and others regarding medical laboratories and how they influence the organization, service delivery and success of current interventions to upscale laboratories in health facilities in Senegal. The approach focuses on investigating how barriers to laboratory relate to the underuse of laboratory diagnostic in ANC.

The programme uses a transdisciplinary approach linking Dutch, Senegalese, Malian, Burkinabè and French research institutions with local stakeholders to understand the underutilization of laboratory tests in ANC in West Africa and Senegal in particular. The results will lead to recommendations for the improvement of medical laboratory services and hence the quality of ANC in Senegal and other settings.


Read the SoicaLab contribution to Knowledge Translation Network Africa (KTNET Africa) blog (6 July 2015)

The Laboratory network in Senegal highlights the SOCIALAB project in their January 2014 newsletter. Click here to read the newsletter (in French, p2).

This video highlights the SOCIALAB scientists wearing their knowledge broker hat, to inform policymakers on ways to improve the quality of maternal care and to educate health staff on better practices in terms of ANC testing in Senegal. Watch here (June 2016)


Name: SociaLab: Addressing Social, Cultural and Historical, Factors Limiting the Contribution of Medical Laboratory services to antenatal care in West Africa
Status: Active
Principal Investigator: Dr Pascale Ondoa (AIGHD)

Co-applicant: Prof Iyane Sow (Directorate of laboratory, Ministry of Health, Senegal)

Departments(s): AMC Department of Global Health
Partners: Centre for Social Science and Global Health, University of Amsterdam (prof Robert Pool)
Direction des Laboratoires, Ministère de la Santé et de l’Action Sociale, Sénégal (Prof Iyane Sow)
Fondation Mérieux, France (Dr Christophe Longuet)
Centre d’Infectiologie Charles Mérieux de Bamako, Mali (Prof Souleymane Diallo)
Direction des Laboratoires, Ministère de la Santé, Burkina Faso (prof Jean Sakandé)
Institut Pasteur de Dakar, Sénégal (Dr Seck)
Contact information: Stephan Rupert
Duration: Start date: 1 October 2012

Duration: 36 months

End date: 1 October 2015

Funded by: NWO-WOTRO
Countries: Mali
Burkina Faso