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Blog Post

Challenge: Ensuring Effective Health Supply Chains

  • Kaleb Brownlow, Mar 8, 2017

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are issuing a joint call for innovative and transformative solutions to build more effective supply chains in low- and middle-income countries around the world.

Supply chains represent the backbone of health systems and when everything works well, they remain invisible to most; however, when supply chains fail to deliver they become highly visible at all levels.

In 2015, as part of Immunization Week, UNICEF told a story of the lives of two mothers each trying to vaccinate their child and the challenges each one faced. One child received his vaccines while the other did not. Each day, parents, women, men, old and young encounter two different worlds when accessing health services to protect against vaccine-preventable diseases, to receive reproductive health and family planning choices or to diagnose and treat communicable and non-communicable diseases.

In one world, the right quality health products are available and the individual can be immunized against measles or polio, able to select her preferred modern contraceptive method, or receive life saving anti-retrovirals (ARVs) to keep HIV/AIDS in check; each one helps support a healthy life.

In the other world, the right quality health products are missing from the health facility shelf or expired/damaged and less efficacious or even harmful; those individuals miss an opportunity to protect themselves or their families' health. These worlds represent two extremes but every day, men, women and children experience this across the world where the supply chain works to deliver and ensure quality health products but often are sub-optimal and ineffective leading to empty shelves or wasted products and ultimately missed opportunities.

In 2015, Bill Gates stated to The Guardian that the supply chain is often the limiting factor, and to improve supply requires cold chain for vaccines and temperature-sensitive products; transport to the last mile; and key information on health products and what is available or unavailable.[1]

With this call for Health Systems Strengthening: Ensuring Effective Health Supply Chains, Gates and USAID seek solutions that are daring in premise and different from the approaches currently used. The ideas must be translatable to practical interventions accessible in resource-limited settings and have the potential to be scaled up or reproduced in multiple settings.

We focus on several areas and seek solutions to one or more areas: (1) distribution and delivery technologies and approaches, (2) new channels and designs to access and deliver health products, (3) visibility and analytics, (4) improve governance and accountability, (5) sustainable capacity within a country, and (6) financing and costing.

We are especially interested in applicants and solutions that come from sectors outside of public sector supply chain, or even outside health.

We look forward to seeing your great ideas! Grand Challenges Explorations Health Systems Strengthening call, USAID's BAA for Health Supply Chain or here

[1] The Guardian (2015)

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