“If a bottle of Coke can be found in rural communities across Africa, why can’t we find medicines and supplies in the same places?”
This question is the driving force behind Project Last Mile (PLM), which uses the Coca-Cola Company’s logistic, supply chain, and marketing expertise to improve health systems across Africa in a sustainable way.
The Yale Global Health Leadership Initiative (GHLI) serves as the monitoring and evaluation partner for PLM. “We systematically evaluate PLM across country settings using a mixed-methods longitudinal study design, distilling lessons learned to accelerate PLM impact and inform future approaches that cross public-private sector boundaries,” says Erika Linnander, director of GHLI and principal investigator of the study.
The Global Health Leadership Initiative’s work with PLM began in Tanzania, where the GHLI teamed up with supply chain experts in the Coca-Cola system and the country’s Medical Stores Department to evaluate a new program to improve access to critical medicines in more than 5,000 locations. GHLI examined factors that either help or hinder effective partnerships.
Lessons learned from Tanzania helped expand this partnership to other countries and provided training tools to prepare global health professionals to both harness the power of private sector partnerships and build technical skills in supply chain management. The PLM global partnership includes The Coca-Cola Company, The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, USAID, The Global Fund, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and aims to expand to 10 African countries by 2020.
In South Africa, PLM has catalyzed rapid expansion of the National Department of Health’s efforts to redefine the way that stable patients with chronic disease access their medications. In Mozambique, PLM has supported the redesign of distribution networks using geomapping and local intelligence to achieve cost savings and quality improvements in medical supply chains. In Nigeria, PLM is promoting proactive maintenance for cold chain equipment to ensure vaccine viability. In Swaziland, PLM leverages Coca-Cola’s marketing expertise to drive positive behavior change for HIV prevention among young women and girls.
Throughout 2018, PLM will continue to engage with new countries to improve availability of lifesaving medicines across Africa, and will deepen engagement for sustainable impact within its existing footprint in Liberia, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Swaziland and Tanzania. In addition to quarterly reporting on PLM progress, GHLI will conduct a series of “deep dives” — field visits to collect qualitative data from diverse stakeholders — to document impact, understand the process of change, and extract best practices for application in other public-private partnerships.
“Innovative partnerships are required to meet the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. Our GHLI team is fortunate to be able to experience firsthand the challenges, successes and lessons learned — and we are committed to sharing our findings with others in global health who seek to push the boundaries of traditional engagement to achieve meaningful impact,” says Linnander.