Last week, the annual Global Health Supply Chain Summit took place in Dakar, Senegal, bringing together supply chain specialists and thought leaders from around the world to keep challenging each of us to strive for better performance of supply chains. It is a week to reflect on what is currently happening in supply chain management, and it sets the agenda for priorities for the coming year.
This being my third year at the summit, I have had the benefit of seeing the impact of GHSCS over time. This is a place where “big” ideas are launched and new thinking arises—through discourse from academia, thought leaders from national level ministries and even health practitioners working at the last mile of the health system. Gradually, these new ideas start gaining ground and get reinforced through our individual work, until next year’s summit when these ideas have either become the “norm” and have been adopted into routines, or they continue to be studied and explored for practical use and implementation.
My take on the BIG IDEAS from GHSCS 2015 that will drive our conversations in 2016 and beyond:
Public private partnerships. This has been a recurrent theme for a few years now, not only at this Summit but also at a global level. As Chan Harijivan from PwC pointed out in his keynote, it will be important to have standardization with common vernacular and common objectives to close the gaps between public and private sectors.
- WHAT’S NEXT: More integration of business approaches in public sector activities. For example, how can we truly hold distribution teams accountable for ensuring there are no stockouts? Are there financial incentives we could introduce? What else can we learn from a private sector approach to management? How do we establish that common vernacular?
System design. The importance of system design and the use of modeling came up a few times during the summit. Jayant Rajgopal, as part of the HERMES team, showed results of removing an administrative layer in the supply chain, comparing the difference in costs among several countries. Taylor Wilkerson from LMI also talked about system design in terms of segmentation, recognizing that there are inherent differences in commodities and any supply chain must be flexible enough to manage those products differently. This was the most exciting theme for me as it directly relates to VillageReach’s current work in Mozambique, using HERMES modeling to find efficiencies throughout the supply chain, from national level to the health facility level across the country. “Estamos juntos” (we are together) is a phrase you hear often around Mozambique, and in terms of the global conversation for system design and Mozambique thought leaders, we are definitely together.
- WHAT’s NEXT: There is much to be done—some system design changes overhaul the entire system, removing administrative levels and boundaries; other changes look at specific segments to identify how to integrate certain commodities that require a cold chain. The future conversations around modeling will likely require more focus on integration of commodities, new technologies for transport, and building the capacity to analyze and interpret the results.
Data for management. (Combining technology, people and processes for improved data for management.) Clinton de Souza from Imperial Health Sciences talked about the control tower concept from South Africa that was established to respond to insufficient capacity in distribution and warehousing, lack of visibility into data, and financial and administrative inefficiencies.
The OpenLMIS platform was presented, both by Marasi Mwencha from John Snow, Inc. /Tanzania, as well as our own Kevin Cussen,
who explained the open source concept and how this platform works. For the people and processes aspect of data for management, another colleague from our Mozambique office, Dianna Lourenço, talked about the monthly review meetings of logistics data and how it drives action to improve performance.
- WHAT’s NEXT: The evolution of the “VAN” into our work—a visibility and analytics network, an idea key partners in the vaccine space are continuing to build on and improve.
Cold chain and vaccines. Since Gavi shared its vaccine supply chain strategy more than a year ago, there have been more and more conversations and ideas and efforts to address vaccine potency as a priority of the strategy. Adam Thompson from eHealth Africa presented the results of a study looking at the frequency of power outages and the distribution of voltage surges and what that means for the performance of the cold chain equipment. This study identified specific things that a manufacturer can do to improve the performance of this equipment under these very realistic conditions. Additionally, Lauren Franzel from Gavi presented the Cold Chain Equipment Optimization Platform (CCEOP), providing an opportunity for countries to get support to strengthen not only cold chain equipment but the entire approach to cold chain management.
- WHAT’s NEXT: The CCEOP presents a great opportunity for countries to look holistically at cold chain management. It’s not just buying equipment; it is taking the time to evaluate what equipment is best for the country context, establish a feasible maintenance plan, include a system design component into planning the cold chain, and introduce remote temperature monitoring to ensure the functioning of that equipment.
Recognition: The most important part of the summit for me was the Mozambique Ministry of Health and VillageReach being recognized with the GHSC Prize for Supply Chain Excellence for the Dedicated Logistics System!
This award was given by the organizers of the summit to recognize creative interventions in supply chain management that have brought impact, involved broad partnerships, are based on a rigorous design, and have scalability. The DLS met those criteria and went even further by demonstrating government buy-in and leadership for system design. It has taken more than 10 years since the first province introduced transport loops and level jumping, and now with the combination of evidence from the field and the influence of this global conversation, Ministry of Health leaders are moving the conversation forward. A huge thank-you to the organizers of the summit, but an even larger thank-you to our partners in Mozambique!
- WHAT’s NEXT: At next year’s summit… I hope to see more country leaders recognized for their efforts to improve health supply chains. None of us work alone, and certainly our partners within the Ministry of Health are critical to the success of any program or innovation. We need to better acknowledge country leadership, share recognition for our successes, and shine a light on those leaders who truly make change possible.