In a stopgap solution to an international health crisis, a program called ColaLife is about to use Coca-Cola’s distribution system to bring digestive medicine to places in sub-Saharan Africa where one can buy Coca-Cola but not basic medicines. “One in five children were dying of dehydration in places where you could always have a Coke and a smile,” said Alison Craiglow Hockenberry in a news story for Changemakers.com.
The anti-diarrhea kits will fit into spaces between the bottles in the classic-style red Coca-Cola boxes that are shipped around the world. Zambia is the first country to begin the program, which will start in January.
Over three years of public-private partnership building took place before these kits were ready to send out to Zambia. The process has been highly collaborative. Package designers changed their plans after hearing feedback from women who wanted reusable and not biodegradable bottles. The program developers also did local market research while developing the name of the package.
To forestall criticism of packaging medicine together with sugary drinks, Hockenberry commented that buying Coca-Cola is not required to receive the medicine. At this stage, the soft drink’s popularity could provide a logical route for sending medication overseas.
Obviously, this program does not change the larger health issues that plague sub-Saharan Africa and other parts of the world, but it is an interesting example of social innovation and resourceful thinking.