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State Laboratories: Mission

The Alaska State Public Health Laboratories (ASPHL) constitute an essential component of the state and national public health infrastructure and clearly operates with a different mission and purpose than do private sector laboratories.

The mission of the ASPHL is to provide analytical and technical laboratory information in support of state and national public health disease prevention programs and represents a first line of defense in the rapid recognition of the spread of communicable diseases.

Core Functions

Core functions and responsibilities of the ASPHL are accomplished with the assistance of private and federal laboratories and include the following:

  • Support of disease control and prevention programs, maternal child and family health programs, environmental health programs, and epidemiological programs. The ASPHL support surveillance activities, outbreak investigation efforts, and help to monitor for the emergence of new infectious agents or re-emergence of infectious agents of public health importance.
  • Overseeing laboratory quality assurance in the state. This is accomplished by providing training opportunities through the National Laboratory Training Network, establishment of standards, evaluation and providing laboratory consultative services when needed or arranging for their provision.
  • Technology development. Developing methods for testing when those methods are not readily available. The ASPHL may be called upon to develop practical applications of research methods for routine use in public health monitoring activities.
  • Diagnostic product evaluation. Because of the large volume of testing and the expertise which exists within the ASPHL, we are in an excellent position to do comprehensive laboratory diagnostic product evaluations.
  • Data Collection. The information generated through the ASPHL is essential for public health analysis and policy decisions. Ready access to high quality captured data for public health purposes represents one of the strongest justifications for the existence of the ASPHL.
  • Testing of high quality at a reasonable cost. The ASPHL represents a major capital investment on the part of the state and the testing performed, in addition to being of high quality, is performed at a reasonable cost.
  • Laboratory expertise. With the diminished role of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention as a reference laboratory; it is imperative that the ASPHL retain their expertise in reference services for the laboratory diagnosis of diseases of public health significance.
  • National surveillance link. Through programs like the Public Health Laboratory Information Service (PHLIS), the ASPHL serve as a major data link with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Other linkages exist with the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Reducing the exposure of Alaskans to unnecessary and possibly harmful radioactivity. Providing expert counsel to state governments and the citizenry regarding the health effects of such exposures.

The ASPHL must maintain flexibility in its organization equal to the rate of change in the community, meeting new situations, and solving emerging problems. Therefore, the services offered by the ASPHL do not remain static but change periodically (new testing offered – old testing eliminate).