Until a year ago, it was common for African mothers in remote villages of Zambia to walk for miles to a health clinic to get effective medicine for their children suffering from diarrhea and related complications from dehydration.
While solutions for diarrhea are inexpensive, relatively easy to administer and readily available in most Western countries, diarrhea remains the second largest killer of children ages 5 and younger in the developing world. In Africa, one out of eight children in this age group dies from diarrhea.
Enter Health2Wealth, an innovative two-year trial project spearheaded by Janssen Pharmaceuticals in partnership with ColaLife™, an non-profit organization that got its start distributing anti-diarrhea kits to developing countries using the space between bottles in Coca-Cola® crates.
By the end of 2013, Health2Wealth had distributed more than 25,000 anti-diarrhea kits to children in two remote Zambian districts, helping to save lives by making simple remedies accessible where they hadn’t been before.
“This is a fantastic example of how open collaboration and innovation results in new solutions,” says Johan Offermans, Director IT, for Janssen-Cilag in Switzerland.
Offermans and Janssen Senior Distribution Manager Kris Pintens heard about the work ColaLife™ was doing to ensure life-saving medicine reached the people who needed it most and realized the organization would be a fitting partner for Janssen.
“We are proud that we have been able to make a contribution that fits Janssen’s Access to Medicines program perfectly and complements our aims in the area of citizenship and sustainability,” Pintens says.
Offermans and Pintens brought together ColaLife™ with their Janssen colleagues in finance and marketing to round out a multidisciplinary team that would later form Health2Wealth.
A judging panel at the end of the six-month program gave the Health2Wealth project a green light and Johnson & Johnson Corporate Citizenship Trust provided a grant to help turn the proposal into reality.
As part of the project, the team worked with PI Global, experts in packaging, to develop the special anti-diarrheal kits known as Kit Yamoyo. Each kit contains several sachets of oral rehydration salts, a small box of zinc tablets to prevent the recurrence of diarrhea and a bar of soap for washing hands before meals. The kits were designed to fit perfectly between the soda bottles, but also so the treatment would be used correctly.
The package itself is an important part of the solution. A key discovery during the design phase was that commonly used one-liter sachets of oral rehydration salts are too large, poorly understood and often mixed incorrectly.
Once opened, the easy-to-use Kit Yamoyo becomes a cup in which the rehydration salts can be dissolved in the correct amount of water. The kit also includes a lid to keep away dirt and flies.
Two remote districts of Zambia in Southern Africa were selected for the 24-month trial project. In December 2011, less than one percent of children were getting the correct diarrhea treatment in these areas. By September 2013, nearly half of children with diarrhea had access to Kit Yamoyo and were using them.
What’s more, mothers no longer had to walk more than four miles to health clinics to help their children stay healthy. Instead, mothers were able to buy the kit from one of 85 trained village micro-retailers within about a mile of their homes. Additionally, 94 percent of mothers used the soap for hand-washing and the perception of oral rehydration salts as the most effective medicine over unsuitable antibiotics increased dramatically.
“More people will have easier access to life-saving medicines because of these innovations,” says Pintens. “A healthier Africa will develop and grow as a result.”
From the 2013 Johnson & Johnson Annual Report