This profile was prepared when Simon Berry was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in .
The New Idea
Inspired by the global distribution and reach of Coca-Cola products, Simon Berry has built a successful new model to bring lifesaving, over-the-counter medicines to low-income communities where they are currently unavailable. Simon believes that if suppliers create products that truly suit the needs and constraints of the people at the bottom of the pyramid, the private market can play a key role in healthcare distribution in rural or under-resourced settings. His mission is, therefore, to ensure that the correct products and sustainable supply chains are in place to enable shopkeepers and the existing health system to reliably stock affordable treatments. Simon is redesigning both supply-side and demand-side factors in order to demonstrate once and for all how easy it is to treat an illness like diarrhea, which is currently the second biggest killer of children under five years of age. Across the developing world, the current top-down system of distribution through health clinics is failing to get the lifesaving treatment of ORSZ (Oral Rehydration Salts and Zinc) into the hands of mothers when their children need it. Therefore, Simon’s approach starts at the ground level, working to understand the needs of end users and together designing a new and affordable treatment for childhood diarrhea best suited for ‘at home’ use. Simon then connects this grassroots learning back to the ministry of health, development agencies, and manufacturers so they can work collaboratively to respond effectively to this demand. By catalyzing a public-private partnership, together they create a new market and sustainable distribution system for the medicine. While many supply-chain solutions involve creating a completely new entity within the chain itself, Simon, through ColaLife, is able to bring together, influence, and coordinate existing players and resources. On the supply side, his model works through the private-sector distribution networks of fast-moving consumer goods—bringing manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, and small village shop keepers together into a sustainable value chain for the health product. His non-profit also serves as a trusted bridge to the public sector; so, they work in parallel with retailers to reach mothers and change behavior in the long-term. Ultimately, Simon is decreasing reliance on public provision alone, and putting health care into the hands of more-informed citizens. Having established the economic feasibility and medical efficacy of his model in Zambia, focused specifically on childhood diarrhea, Simon’s mission now is to incorporate this bottom-up approach into other sectors of public health, and influencing public health systems, development agencies, supply chains, and pharmaceutical producers around the world.