Building Resilient and Sustainable Healthcare Supply Chains for Sustainable Development Goal 3

Author: Ramatu Abdulkadir

In 2015, the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by world leaders with the hope to reduce poverty, inequality and climate change. Pre-COVID, the world was making progress towards achieving these lofty goals. The question is - Where are we now? What does COVID mean for the most vulnerable in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs)? Are the SDGs still relevant?

The SDGs are critical for providing a shared vision and direction for a better world. How close are we to achieving our targets in the light of the 2020 report by the United Nations, that shows a decline and likely reversal of the gains made before COVID? The bad news is, we will not hit our targets by 2030, it’s a question of how far are we from them? Given the scarcity of resources and the global call for increased spending on health systems, which part of the health systems should we prioritize? What lessons have we learned that can be useful going forward?

COVID -19 pandemic has eroded the gains in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) more visibly with Goal 3 targets, which is to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all, at all ages. It has become evident that globally and particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), there’s not enough health facilities, health supplies and healthcare workforce to tackle COVID-19 and sustain the progress on other disease conditions ravaging these countries.


The healthcare supply chain is the trim tab of the healthcare system. A lesson from COVID-19 is that building resiliency in healthcare supply chains has never been more urgent. Innovations in sustainable business strategies to gain resiliency and cope with disruptions will spur the much-needed growth and improvement in all 17 SDGs.

We have to review the timeline to achieve Goal 3 targets of improving maternal, mental and child health; reducing the burden of infectious and non-communicable diseases and environmental risks. Sustainable and resilient healthcare supply chains can help us gain ground and even make surprising comebacks in the following ways:


Consider the impact of the sum of our local efforts and practices on global sustainability according to Svensson; Glocal business sustainability refers to the interconnection and interdependence between the local and global performance of sustainability issues concerning Earth’s local and global life- and eco-systems across contexts and through time. Businesses stand a risk of falling off the track anytime they decide to act locally and lose focus of global sustainability. Recall how the coronavirus moved quickly from Wuhan to your country without asking for permission?


Dematerialize healthcare supply chains is the name of the game. Digitization in all areas will improve the resilience and sustainability of the system. X-ray, CT Scan and MRI from the comfort of your home? Time to focus on our weird old friend “quantum mechanics”. The future supply chains are interested in atomization or democratization of manufacturing using 3D printing to provide customers with their needs.

Eco-systemization and keeping materials in a loop of constant regeneration will ensure sustainability. Imagine all those expired medicines never expiring, what a world it would be! How about they become input for another product or supply chain, it means more cash to save more lives, win-win!

It will require a trade-off between short-term cost and long-term benefits. What will happen when global trade does not define international relations, and development does not depend on business? It means global leaders can finally focus on the most crucial stakeholder “The Earth” leading us closer to achieving our targets for SDGs.

Shortages in health supplies will spur innovation in the use of existing materials as we have with the repurposing of manufacturing during COVID. The rise of pandustrial technologies and democratized open source tools will revolutionize supply chains. More importantly, the change in mindset post-COVID will unleash innovative solutions.

Do we need more health facilities? What if everyone can have a facility? How about locating them on our phones? The healthcare work force can join the facilities online. Healthcare facilities, health supplies and workforce can be dematerialized!

Do you think that will solve the problem? Are health supply chains ready for the shift? It will be the trade-off of a lifetime, and you won’t get to vote on it!Businesses will need all their thinking caps: critical thinking, design thinking, circular thinking, pandustrial thinking.…… to pull through! Let’s get to work! What do you think about dematerializing healthcare supply chains?


  • Wow! I think its a really crazy idea worth exploring. I see it providing limitless opportunities for the health sector from manufacture to service delivery on a global scale.

  • Hmmm. Dematerializing health care supply chain! This will be wonderful and life will be much better! I believe we can give it a try.

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