Why Optimize?by Daisy Mafubelu, Assistant Director General, WHO Family and Community Health Cluster,and Chris Elias, President and CEO, PATH In 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) and PATH jointly launched Optimize, a five-year effort to help countries anticipate and manage the growing complexity of the logistics of immunization programs. The project draws strength from WHO’s expertise in setting norms and standards, establishing policies, and developing guidelines and from PATH’s 20 years experience in improving vaccine transport and storage and advancing appropriate technologies to deployment in developing-country immunization systems. The collaboration, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is not exclusive: national governments, UNICEF, donors (including the GAVI Alliance), industry, and many others have critical roles to play in shaping logistics systems of the future. In contrast to supply chains that simply react to ongoing logistical problems, Optimize and its partners envision supply chains that actively predict, propose, and meet the needs of rapidly changing immunization programs, so that as vaccination products, schedules, and policies evolve, so do the logistics systems that bring those services to people in need. There are three dimensions to this effort. One is to create an enabling environment for innovation. This means creating preferred product profiles for new vaccine, device, transport, and refrigeration technologies so that the needs of developing countries are considered in the earliest stages of research and development. It also means creating an enabling policy environment—one that ensures that new technologies, systems, and processes are safely assimilated into country programs within a reasonable time frame. For example, a policy that allows relatively heat-stable vaccines to be used in a controlled environment, but not necessarily in the “cold chain,” could free up limited space in refrigerators and cold rooms that make up the vaccine supply chain. When coupled with a policy that requires vaccine vial monitors on these vaccines, health personnel can ensure that each individual vaccine vial has not been ruined by exposure to heat. A second dimension of the project is to demonstrate the utility of new management processes and technologies that may improve the efficiency, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness of the supply chain. For example, the integration of the storage and distribution of vaccines with other heat-sensitive products canreduce redundancies in storage and transport equipment. Similarly, the introduction of computerized monitoring and tracking systems can help countries move beyond paper-based systems and make vaccine management and ordering more accurate and efficient. A third dimension to the project is to share our findings and observations in real time, allowing the global community to participate in and influence discussions on future supply chain designs. The result we seek is a globally accepted supply chain model that meets the ever changing needs of populations in low- and middle-income countries. We invite you to comment on or post a question relating to this article by clicking the “post reply” button on this page. You will have to log in or register, but the process is very simple. To link back to the Optimize e-newsletter, click here.
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