According to the World Health Organization, much of the world’s burden of disease can be prevented or cured with known, affordable technologies. The problem is getting drugs, vaccines, information and other forms of prevention, care or treatment — on time, reliably, in sufficient quantity and at reasonable cost — to those who need them.
Universal health coverage requiresuniversal access to medicines, vaccines and other health commodities. Over the last 30 years, and especially in the last decade, tremendous effort and funding has gone into improving the availability of contraceptives and other reproductive health commodities, of essential medicines to treat HIV, malaria and tuberculosis, and of new vaccines and new presentations of traditional vaccines.
Millions of lives have been saved or improved. But there’s still a long way to go, especially in reaching every person, every community at the last mile, in a way that saves lives, empowers communities, and builds resilient and equitable health systems.
Supply chains play a central role in achieving the goal of universal health coverage, and we have seen that the best practices applied in the past to get systems organized — assessments, system designs, standard operating procedures, capacity building, product integration — must evolve to include new tools, technologies and approaches.
Here are seven ways to improve supply chains:
1. Adapting commercial supply chain best practices to the mission-driven supply chains for public health for improved efficiency and effectiveness. This includes economic evaluation for identifying cost-effective interventions and analyzing the cost-benefit of different design options as well as supply chain modeling techniques to guide system optimization decisions.
The application of these new tools and approaches is more critical than ever. Every supply chain has a literal last mile, the crucial final leg to reach the customer. But in public health there’s also the figurative “last mile” that means reaching the hardest to reach segments of the population. Most of the people who lack access to medicines and vaccines today are either the most remote, living far from paved roads and affordable transport, or the most economically impoverished, preventing them from paying out-of-pocket for services and commodities.
Building supply chains for universal coverage — covering the last mile to each of them — requires innovation, creativity, commitment and a willingness to bear the costs.
It all sounds very technical and supply chain geeky, so it’s critical that we never lose sight of our goal; getting products to people. We must constantly ask: Where do they live? Where do they shop? Where do they get their services? How much income do they have? What are their barriers? Supply chains must be agile enough, smart enough, and resourced enough to respond to these needs.
For more Devex coverage on global health, visit Focus On: Global Health.
Edward Wilson is director of John Snow, Inc.’s Center for Health Logistics, where he oversees a portfolio of over 30 projects across Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Wilson has over 30 years of experience working in low- and middle-income countries in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean providing both short- and long-term technical assistance in project management, capacity building, public health supply chain management, management information system design, and software.
Subscribe to Devex Newswire
Top international development headlines emailed to you every day