Global Aid and Access for Health: Reflections on an International Forum

May 10, 2017

May 10, 2017 - The Partnership for Quality Medical Donations (PQMD) recently held a forum on global aid and access for health, and we were honored to be invited to join these conversations. PQMD is a global alliance of non-profits and corporations dedicated to impacting and improving the health in underserved communities. This forum focused on the challenges nations and communities face in making healthcare accessible, especially during pandemics, natural disasters, and other emergencies.

 

The forum was held last month in London and included panel discussions examining some of the most urgent health controversies and challenges across the globe, including how to make medicine more accessible, especially during humanitarian crises. It was an invigorating experience to spend time with a group of diverse organizations that all share a passion for improving health systems and strengthening global health security. Much of our discussion centered on ways to improve the overall health framework in order to achieve these goals. Several themes around this core topic recurred throughout the week.

 

The main theme was on the use of data, especially indices and indicators. One of the sessions, led by the innovators of the Access to Medicines Index (ATMI), discussed this methodology and the ways that such measures can be used to push the conversation (and partnerships) forward.  Since its creation, he ATMI index has demonstrated that it is becoming increasingly important for companies to make large investments in developing health systems. The researchers pointed out that many funders use reports such as ATMI to see how aid works, as well as the use of investments to create sustainable change. This index serves as a proxy for emergency market behavior and an endpoint for risk and opportunity management.

 

Another key theme was figuring out how to navigate trends in a multilateral environment, especially in light of the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Experts spoke about how access to medicines is included in the SDGs and the various strategies and innovations that are being put in place to ensure that no one is left behind during an emergency.  There was general consensus that the global supply of medicine is often greater than the capacity to deliver these medications, especially when dealing with the “last mile of medicine delivery”. This was a particularly interesting point for me to consider in the context of our work, as we see that, by and large, healthcare workers and strategic partnerships at the local and community levels here in the US are largely successful and efficient at managing supply chain distribution and supporting sustainable healthcare delivery.

 

Pandemic preparedness and response served as another primary theme and discussion topic. With the frequency of pandemics and epidemics increasing, the ability to adequately prevent, detect, and respond to these threats grows more important every day. This group focused specifically on discussing how to identify infectious disease and pandemic vectors and the process for donating needed supplies in the complex policy and health environments created by a disaster or pandemic occurs. The considerations are many and complex – how to safely and efficiently provide donated medical supplies for disaster response, how to move donations to locations in need, how to create and maintain transparency on the real needs of communities, and how to put donated medical supplies into response. Another highlight of this discussion, to me, was the Disaster Medical Supply Network and how it is working on the pandemic supply chain initiative with NGOs, industry, and academia. The session on pandemic preparedness also addressed new efforts the WHO will launch to certify NGOs working in disasters, pandemics, and humanitarian assistance.

 

At Healthcare Ready, we are always looking for more efficient ways to connect with other organizations on the major issues that impact global health. This meeting provided an exchange of great ideas and initiatives that will further help us alleviate these issues. We are looking forward to working with PQMD in the near future in order to engage and grow the international arm of Healthcare Ready’s work and produce better outcomes for patients worldwide.

Nicolette Louissaint, Ph.D.

Dr. Nicolette A. Louissaint is the Interim Executive Director of Healthcare Ready. Prior to this position, Nicolette served as a Foreign Affairs Officer at the U.S. Department of State in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs. During the height of the Ebola Epidemic of 2014, Nicolette served as the Senior Advisor to the State Department’s Special Coordinator for Ebola. Nicolette earned a Ph.D. in Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences, specializing in HIV Clinical Pharmacology from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She completed post-doctoral fellowships at the Johns Hopkins University and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.