The Cola Challenge: What Makes Medicine Distribution Different?

by Chris Wright, John Snow, Inc. and JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc., December 8, 2016

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You’ve probably heard it; if you can get a Coke in any village in Africa, why can’t you get medicines? Well, you can’t actually. Anyone who has travelled 100 kilometres down rutted, washed out roads to a village in the middle of a savanna knows that getting a Coke is never a sure thing. But let’s say you are more likely to get some sort of carbonated beverage than you are antibiotics, measles vaccines, malaria medicine, or contraceptives. Why is that? Well, it comes down to the differences between the supply chains; the resources, the sophistication, the commitment, and the return on investment of getting products to people. Governments and others working to distribute health commodities can learn a lot from the private sector, which excels at finding innovative ways to reduce cost, improve efficiencies, plan effectively, create incentives, and motivate people. The more we learn from and embrace these aspects of the private sector, the better we can quench the thirst of people everywhere for a healthy and disease-free life.

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