Even as laboratories grappled with the overwhelming demands of COVID-19 testing, other public health needs continued.

Ensure Essential Public Health Services


Ensure Essential Public Health Services

Even as laboratories grappled with the overwhelming demands of COVID-19 testing, other public health needs continued. To maintain the national newborn screening program, which saves thousands of lives every year in the US, APHL coordinated efforts with member laboratories to identify challenges and needs associated with adapting screening practices to pandemic conditions and compiled strategies on a COVID-19 newborn screening website and in a series of webinars.

APHL also developed creative approaches to maintain testing capabilities for infectious diseases other than COVID-19. Staff developed processes for home collection of samples to test for sexually transmitted diseases and worked around supply chain disruptions for tuberculosis reagents by routing those samples to a handful of designated laboratories able to continue tuberculosis testing.

Supporting healthy babies

APHL provided 39 direct funding awards that helped laboratories and their newborn screening systems develop messaging during the public health emergency, pursue continuous quality improvement and implement screening for additional disorders, despite cutbacks in other areas and the pressures of the pandemic.

APHL developed processes for home collection of samples & worked around supply chain disruptions

Lab mapping in Kenya

Early in 2020, a multi-year laboratory mapping effort in Kenya culminated in the launch of a new online tool cataloguing public health laboratory capacity and capabilities across the country and publication of an associated report. A questionnaire sent to more than 1,000 laboratories assessed facilities, personnel training and locations, instrumentation and testing capacity to paint a comprehensive picture of Kenya’s laboratory system’s scope, strengths, gaps and needs. The data are currently informing APHL’s COVID-19 response efforts in the country and will guide the Ministry of Health’s long-term strategic decision-making and interventions such as gap assessment, resource allocation and staffing decisions, response structures and sample collection and testing strategies. These data will be updated on an annual basis when laboratories across Kenya utilize the online tool for a self-assessment.

Biomonitoring nationwide

In collaboration with CDC, APHL continues to support the National Biomonitoring Network to build laboratory capability and capacity for chemical exposure testing. Now with 20 member laboratories, the network supports environmental health surveillance and investigations and helps coordinate data collection efforts across the country to inform public health policy and interventions.

Members of the Laboratory Response Network rely on validation of new instruments and assays to ensure they will obtain reliable, comparable results. In 2020, APHL assisted the State Hygienic Laboratory in Iowa and the Wadsworth Center in New York in conducting a multicenter evaluation of automated nucleic acid extraction technology

Guiding opioid surveillance in communities

APHL’s Opioids Biosurveillance Task Force—which brings together subject matter experts in analytical chemistry, forensic toxicology, health statistics, epidemiology, injury prevention and more—explored the roles public health laboratories can play in understanding non-fatal opioid overdoses and published a model surveillance strategy to guide public health agencies interested in developing and implementing programs in their jurisdictions. Collected information could guide public information around new compounds, design interventions or identify areas that need additional treatment centers.

Tracking coronavirus in wastewater

Wastewater surveillance can be an effective way to monitor infectious disease in local communities. With efforts underway in multiple communities and congregate care settings to survey wastewater for evidence of community spread of SARS-CoV-2, APHL is coordinating efforts with CDC and assisting public health laboratories interested in becoming part of the National Wastewater Surveillance System (NWSS). The efforts will help public health laboratories use wastewater surveillance to detect trends in viral levels and inform public health messaging and interventions in affected communities.

Banner: Scientist Lenard Mendoza performs mass spectrometry testing in the Newborn Screening Laboratory. Photo: Virginia Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services


Environmental Health


Infectious Diseases



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