By Walter Proper on May 22nd, 2019
Large business organizations know that supply chains are critical to their success or failure. If products are unavailable, customers will go to a competitor, and profits decline. Public health supply chains don’t have a bottom line to consider, but their services are more critical than driving home a profit; people’s lives depend on them and when supply chains falter, the health impact can be devastating. Medicines, contraceptives, and other health supplies must be available when and where people need them.
In contrast to private sector companies, ministries of health in developing countries are typically not structured to include a director who focuses solely on the supply chain, and who is placed in the top leadership of the organization. This can cause supply chain problems to be poorly understood, underrepresented, or just lost when other issues are deemed more important.
If we are to bend the curve of health improvement, the status of supply chain issues must be elevated with dedicated, professional supply chain management (SCM) staff who can effectively advocate at the highest levels. This could mean creating a standalone directorate for supply chain management, or giving representatives from the logistics management unit a seat at high-level meetings on a regular basis.
When decision-makers can interact directly with professional supply chain leaders, who are closely involved in day-to-day logistics operations, SCM issues become more visible and can be resolved faster. Public health supply chains are large, complicated organizations that require a core of trained professionals to execute the technical tasks that ensure a continuous product flow to health facilities. These tasks may relate to quantification, procurement, distribution, or logistics management information systems, to name a few key SCM areas.