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Nov 28, 2016   |   Blog Post

Global Thinking: The 2016 Global Health Supply Chain Summit

By VillageReach

The annual Global Health Supply Chain Summit brings together supply chain professionals from all over the globe to discuss and share important trends in global health and the supply chains that support global health efforts. Last year, the big ideas from the event reinforced critical components of our work to improve health supply chains: public-private partnerships, system design, and data for management.

This year’s summit provided another great opportunity for VillageReach and our ministry partners to share our experiences, to learn from others, and to identify important trends shaping the global health supply chain community. The VillageReach team reflects on some of these trends below.

The Meaning of Integration


A few of the VillageReach team and partners preparing for a presentation.

The theme of this year’s summit was “integrating global health supply chains for sustainable health outcomes” – a hot topic as governments and donors try to find efficient ways to share resources across traditionally vertical supply chains. But the meaning of integration is not always clear: Olivier Defawe, Senior Manager: Integration does not necessarily mean integrating a whole vertical supply chain with another vertical supply chain. By explaining the notion of integration as “opportunistic resource sharing,” participants walked away with a broader concept of integration. It is also important to understand who wants or needs integration: the donor, the government, the health worker… Sometimes misalignment of priorities has the potential to make progress towards integration difficult.

Clement Ngombo, Technical Advisor: It is always better to describe the desired level of integration – transport, storage, data collection, etc.  We also have the opportunity in the DRC to document successes and failures in integration from the very beginning.

Erin Larsen-Cooper, Manager: My favorite talk was by Don Hicks, who pulled heavily on the work of Nobel-prize winner Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking Fast and Slow. Slow thinking is absolutely critical for making complex decisions – like supply chain design. It takes time and effort and complex analysis and people are often resistant to using this type of thinking. For example, “integration is efficient!” is fast thinking. Looking at integration holistically “Are there parts of my supply chain I should integrate? What parts? Why? What will I gain by doing so? What will I lose? Is there a hybrid method I can use? – requires slow thinking. Don Hicks suggests our mantra moving forward should be “Supply Chain Designers Think Slow.” And I agree!

Being a Fruit Fly and Other New Ways of Thinking

Along with specific projects and case studies, the summit also presented some new ways of thinking about supply chains. Hearing from partners on how they think about supply chains is just as important as what the end approach is.

cxxtkjpvqaab-8mWendy Prosser, Senior Manager: In his keynote speech on November 16, Martin Ewert from Procter & Gamble talked about being a fruit fly, a quickly evolving thing, because what’s right today may be different tomorrow. His encouragement was that we should all be fruit flies to adjust to the quickly changing needs of the communities where we work.

Dercio Duvane, Information Systems Officer: The summit was a great opportunity to know what other countries are implementing and how they are facing some important issues that we are experiencing as well. One of them was how they were able to ensure the collection of data with quality in Mali through the OSPSANTE app for health commodities tracking and through MOVE in Nigeria.

Alvaro Lopes, National Supply Chain Officer:  Mozambique is not the only country trying to use 3PL (third party logistics providers) to transport medical commodities, many other countries are doing it in different ways, so it was good to hear how others are using 3PL. Presentations on quantification and forecasting were interesting since these are important factors when it comes to efficient supply chains, and most of the countries are still guessing numbers in terms of demand since they rely on requisitions from the health facilities.

Taking the Lead

Another common theme was the need for strong government leadership and passionate people to drive change forward.

Clement Ngombo: Governments and ministries of health have to be in the driver’s chair. But what happens when a government requires support to move a system forward? Building strong leadership is the right thing to do so that the drivers of change know where to go, and how to get there.

Wendy Prosser: One key relates to the capacity people have to run different aspects of the supply chain. Thomas Sorenson from UNICEF gave an example of an opportunistic integrated system that was driven by passionate people, and then when that person left, it fell apart. We need to think about a network of support so that when changes occur, the entire system isn’t at risk.

VillageReach energized discussions around technology, system design, and private sector logistics. Conversations about OpenLMIS, UAV payload delivery, and the use of 3PLs in Mozambique touched on many of the themes above. Following this meeting, our challenge is to keep the collaboration going among all key stakeholders: funders, governments and implementers alike. If you would like to stay informed about VillageReach’s work to improve supply chains at the last mile, please consider participating in one of these forums:

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