Health-sector policy-makers need to recognize that a competent and productive supply chain workforce is a crucial building block of national health system performance and should be addressed in national health policy discussions and decisions. The functionality of a national health supply chain warrants an assessment of existing policies and a consideration of which new policies could be integrated to support efforts to professionalize and empower supply chain personnel, as well as how the system can upgrade qualified personnel at key health levels, and where the greatest weaknesses are. National HRH observatories, which have been established in many countries to produce, analyze, and share HRH knowledge and tools, can provide core data and information needed to drive forward policy development and change (WHO 2011b). Policy reviews could focus on the central medical store system and outsourcing options, or task-sharing arrangements, but there are many other areas warranting attention.

Zimbabwe’s Delivery Team Topping Up (DTTU) distribution system is one example of how an innovative supply chain approach can reinforce national policy and benefit health services. To support the implementation of national HIV/AIDS and family planning policies, trained drivers and technical staff provide inventory “topping up” of health products in quantities needed on a timely basis to meet facility needs, contributing to  significant decreases in stock out rates for essential primary health care medicines and medical supplies (USAID | DELIVER Project 2008).

Countries would benefit from establishing human resources policies that recognize supply chain workers, especially those in management positions, as professional members of national and district health teams, requiring a specific skill set and training, and should be actively recruited and retained. A policy decision and implementation to include the tracking of health supply chain workers in a human resources information system would provide a sound basis for decision-makers to determine staffing needs, both for supply chain managers and other workers who have supply chain responsibilities.

  • Achievable activity: Review existing health policy and strategy documents, and any plans for their revision, with a view toward strengthening policies, strategies and plans for the supply chain workforce.

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