Fixing healthcare's supply chain: 7 tips

After about three years living with the COVID-19 pandemic, the healthcare supply chain continues to have weak spots, the World Economic Forum wrote Jan. 20. 

To prepare for the next pandemic, here are seven tips from the global lobbying group: 

1. Political interest and funding: "Although crises often prompt a flood of short-term spending, funds soon dry up as memories fade and priorities shift. True global health security requires global financing mechanisms that enable sustained investment, finally breaking this cycle of panic and neglect."

2. More diversity in manufacturing: "Achieving greater geographic diversification requires more than just investment in new factories. Long-term contracts and financial guarantees are needed to sustain the manufacturing of critical healthcare items in diverse locations."

3. Better stockpiles and inventory management: "In addition to enhancing stockpiles of personal protective equipment at the local, regional and national levels, we must manage inventory more intelligently — from cycling inventory to deal with product expiry to coordinating and harmonizing responses across jurisdictions."

4. Platforms for data-sharing and enhanced transparency: "While progress has been made, encouraging responsible information sharing across public and private partners requires significant additional funding."

5. Encouraging global trade: "Over the past three years, government restrictions on exports played a significant role in exacerbating product distribution shortages. While the desire of governments to protect their populations in times of crisis is understandable, international cooperation to allow the free flow of key products lessens the risk of panic buying, hoarding and, ultimately, viral spread."

6. A systematic early-warning system for future outbreaks: "Detecting the next outbreak early is essential to mitigating its impact, protecting global healthcare supply chains and saving lives." The organization recommends governments, international groups and private companies invest in the warning system.

7. Stronger health systems with better primary care: "'Universal health coverage and health emergencies are cousins — two sides of the same coin,' Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, director-general of WHO, once said. Major and sustained investment is needed if we are to reap the benefits of expanded access to care."

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