Cover photo: A health worker administers a vaccine in Indonesia. The Access and Delivery Partnership promotes knowledge exchange between countries to build strong and resilient health systems.
Photo: Ihsan Ahmad/UNDP Indonesia.

Bangkok – The Access and Delivery Partnership (ADP) is expanding efforts to promote South-South exchange and learning to boost access and delivery of health technologies for tuberculosis (TB), malaria and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

While the world has made great strides in developing medicines, vaccines and diagnostics to combat diseases of poverty, too often they are not reaching the people who need them most. To ensure people can access the medicines, vaccines and diagnostics they need, countries must have coordinated policies and processes, and strong institutions to guide the selection, introduction and scale-up of health technologies. South-South cooperation is an inclusive and efficient tool to bring sustainable solutions to these problems.          

On 1 February 2019 in Bangkok, Thailand, ADP brought together over 50 government stakeholders from Bhutan, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania and Thailand as well as representatives from regional institutions such as the African Union (AU) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Agency. The meeting provided opportunities to discuss solutions to address the major challenges across the value chain for access and delivery of new health technologies.

“Bringing together policy makers and experts from the Global South to share their country experiences, good practices and solutions is an important way to tackle similar challenges that are faced by LMICs to enable effective access and delivery of health technologies,” said Cecilia Oh, Programme Advisor for ADP at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Bangkok Regional Hub. “It is vital for building strong health systems in low- and middle-income countries, and for achieving the ultimate goal of health for all.”

Participants at the meeting used the unique platform, provided by ADP, to share their strategies and priorities for strengthening their national health systems, as well as to identify common issues, and bottlenecks for which South-South cooperation can help identify solutions. 

While countries have unique challenges and priorities, many of the policy and technical issues they encounter are shared. The event showcased how South-South cooperation can be one of the most effective ways to achieve sustainable development and drive robust, country-owned efforts towards strong, resilient and affordable health systems.

"Tanzania, with ADP and other partners, is working towards establishing a supply chain that ensures that all underserved areas of the country in terms of medicines are actually reached,” said Dr. Khadija Yahya-Malima, Chief Research Officer with the Commission of Science & Technology, Tanzania. “We are collaborating to strengthen the supply chain management of the annual NTD treatment programme, and this  has produced significant results to date – we now have a training curriculum that is  rolled out to over 3,000 health workers in 20 regions.”

During the meeting, participants learned about concrete examples of ADP-supported South-South cooperation. These included the case where training modules and guidelines developed by ADP to strengthen supply chain management of NTD medicines in Tanzania was adapted and implemented by the national NTD control programme in Ghana. This was achieved through extended personnel exchanges and mentoring by government experts from Tanzania who shared valuable experience regarding the development of these tools and the national roll-out to frontline health workers.

Another example is the South-South initiative between the Health Intervention and Technology Assessment Program of Thailand and the Indonesian Committee on Health Technology Assessment. The initiative facilitated technical knowledge exchange to institutionalize health technology assessment in Indonesia, as well as several collaborative evaluations of health technologies in the pipeline.

Demonstrating the possibilities for regionwide cooperation, Janet Dr. Janet Byaruhanga, a Senior Programme Officer with the NEPAD Agency, presented to the group the AU Model Law for Medical Products Regulation. The AU Model Law, which was developed by the AU and the NEPAD Agency with support from ADP, provides a framework for regulatory harmonization and a platform to strengthen the capacities of national regulatory authorities, enabling speedier access to health technologies. ADP continues to support the regional regulatory harmonization process through the provision of technical assistance and sharing country experiences in implementing the AU Model Law at the national level.

Meeting participants also emphasized the importance of community-owned interventions, primary health care, policy coherence, the expansion of implementation research, pro-active approaches to increase awareness and acceptance, and sustainable political will.

“Implementation research is a crucially important approach to help inform decisions about health policies, programmes and practices,” said Margaret Gyapong, University of Health and Allied Sciences, Ghana. “One of the areas in which we work with ADP has been building capacity in implementation research and cooperating with programme managers to better understand the bottlenecks in health programme implementation.  Together, we can find practical solutions to those problems.”

Through South-South cooperation and exchange, ADP is strengthening regional partnerships and networks to enable greater depth of support for national level capacity development on access and delivery. Its experience with in-country implementation and its strategic partnerships with regional and global institutions benefit these efforts. Going forward, ADP will scale up its efforts to ensure availability, affordability and accessibility to high quality health technologies for those in need.

Lydia Gronemeier is a Programme Management Intern for UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub
Ian Mungal is a Programme Analyst at UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub

The blog story was first published by UNDP in Asia and the Pacific