Friday, December 12, 2008

Mapping Medical Donations to Encourage Cooperation

Lori Warrens is the executive director of The Partnership for Quality Medical Donations

It’s the holiday season and before it’s over I will have had a bit of eggnog and dozen party conversations that go something like this….Where do you work? (I work for the Partnership for Quality Medical Donations, an alliance of pharmaceutical, health product companies and humanitarian organizations that donate billions of dollars in medical products each year to help people in developing countries. They work together to battle disease, improve health systems and even eradicate some tropical diseases.) Interesting, that must be fulfilling work. (I nod.) Who are your members? (I name a few.) What! No way, I had no idea that drug companies did that! They should tell people.

I agree. The public and healthcare professionals only learn about medical product donations through media coverage of large-scale disasters and humanitarian crises. As a result the public only hears about 5-10% of all medical donations and even then it might only be in the context of an unneeded or poor quality donation. It is also true that global health professionals do not always know where other organizations are working or what they are accomplishing. That’s a shame because for decades healthcare companies have been saving millions of lives by quietly donating billions of dollars of urgently requested quality medical products. As a result, thousands of communities are able to access the medicines and care they need, through both long-term programs and in times of natural disasters where victims suffer greatly. These programs are built through partnerships that evolved under community-based values. That is a story that should be told and starting this week there will be a new Web site for anyone wanting to learn more about medical product donations,

PQMD launched a Donations Mapping Tool on December 10 that shows where more than $4 billion worth of quality medical product donations go each year. The public view, which we hope will also be used by global health professionals and the media, shows where donations go, who sends them and how they are used. There are case studies, links to our member’s program descriptions, information about how members are responding to large-scale natural disasters, and tools for improving donation programs.

While communicating the story is important, the core purpose for the site is to support collaboration between our members and others involved in global health. It’s impossible to participate in a discussion about improving global health without hearing the call for all sectors to develop better partnerships, share more information, integrate activities and work within local systems.

PQMD decided a few years ago that moving to the next level of collaboration required a shared site that provides detailed information regarding donation shipment contents, in-country partners, facilities that use the donations, who they serve and what is needed. Because security is a serious concern in many parts of the world we have decided to keep this information private. However, members can use the system to enhance current programs, find new partners or speed up their response to disasters. PQMD staff can also use the information to provide information to other organizations and collaborations as needed.

This is uncharted territory for us (pun intended), so please check out the site and tell us what you think so that we can enhance the site in the coming year.