By: Madeline Taskier, Strategic Partnerships Associate at Women Deliver
Why is it that you can get a bottle of soda almost anywhere in the world, but not essential health products? Companies like Coca-Cola have mastered the art of shipping and logistics, reaching the most remote places in the world with their products. ColaLife, a non-profit enterprise, asked this same question and decided to leverage the power and efficiency of Coca-Cola’s distribution systems to bring simple health products to the hardest-to-reach communities.
The need for essential health products is great. Almost 1 in 7 children die before their fifth birthday from preventable causes such as dehydration from diarrhea, and approximately 15 percent of maternal deaths worldwide are due to infection during birth and postpartum. By using simple solutions, like oral rehydration salts (ORS), to stop dehydration; zinc supplements, to shorten the duration and severity of diarrhea in malnourished children; and soaps to promote hand washing (resulting in cleaner more sanitary deliveries); these poor health outcomes can be prevented. Additionally, these solutions are compact, portable, and inexpensive.
Enter ColaLife’s AidPod: a package that fits between the necks of crated bottles in the negative, un-used space. Using simple plastic packaging, the AidPod contains essential health products in a ‘mothers’ kit’ that adds no extra volume and little weight to a crate of soda. To dispense the kit, ColaLife works with Coca-Cola and independent distributors, to find distribution channels in developing countries that can deliver the health products directly to women and their children.
ColaLife’s model emphasizes delivery through the private sector. As a sustainable enterprise, the AidPod is not product donation, but a package set at a price that mothers can afford. With initial subsidies added at the top of the retail chain, profits will be made by the distributor, wholesaler, and retailer selling the AidPod. Social marketers will help educate the community about issues of dehydration, sanitation, and family planning, while marketing and selling the product.
In October 2011, ColaLife started its first trial in Zambia with support from the Johnson & Johnson Corporate Citizenship Trust, an international development agency, and in-kind support from SABMiller Zambia and Honda CSR's Dream Factory. They will be working to get the AidPod delivery system off the ground and measure the outcomes starting with a simple AidPod including the ORS, zinc supplements, soap, and hand washing education aforementioned. With help from Mobile Transactions Zambia, the trial will integrate mobile technology for data collection and health messaging, and allow families to purchase and redeem vouchers for the AidPods using their mobile phones.
We look forward to hearing the outcomes of ColaLife’s first trial in Zambia; a model that creatively bridges public and private sector strengths and increases the potential to save women and children’s lives.
Flickr photo by: mammal