Project Last Mile shares Coca-Cola business models to help governments make sure medicines are available where they are needed most.

Project Last Mile is an innovative partnership that is improving the availability of life-saving medicines and demand for health services in hard-to-reach communities across Africa by sharing the expertise and network of Coca-Cola.

“Almost every person knows the Coca-Cola brand and could probably find one of Coca-Cola’s range of products close by. For the past few years, we have tapped into this expertise to assist governments in several African countries to ensure life-saving medicines are consistently available and that key health services, such as HIV testing, are sought after by the community,” says Adrian Ristow, Project Director for Project Last Mile.

Through Project Last Mile, Coca-Cola’s expertise in distribution, logistics and marketing is shared to build governments’ capability and systems to save lives in the fight against diseases such as HIV, TB, malaria, as well as those that can be prevented through child immunisation.

Project Last Mile is a unique partnership between The Coca-Cola Company, The Coca-Cola Foundation, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. It aims to extract and apply key private sector lessons for the benefit of reaching millions of patients accessing public health services in eight African countries.

Encouraging young people to use health services in eSwatini

In eSwatini Project Last Mile is partnering with the eSwatini Ministry of Health to inspire and educate young girls to make their health – both body and mind – a top priority.

eSwatini has the highest HIV prevalence amongst adults worldwide. In 2017, 27,4% of those between 15- and 49-years-old were living with HIV. In the same year, 15 to 24-year-old women were five times more likely to be living with HIV, compared to men of the same age.

By leveraging Coca-Cola’s expertise in strategic marketing and talent management, Project Last Mile supports the government’s drive to increase demand for critical health services for HIV prevention, treatment and care. A team which included the Ministry of Health, National Emergency Response Council on HIV and AIDS, and leading brand agency, FCB, developed a world class communications campaign known as the Girl Champ campaign, where adolescent girls and young women are encouraged to utilise healthcare services.

Creating alternative medicine pick-up points for millions of South Africans

Meanwhile, in South Africa, millions of people require routine access to medicines for HIV and other chronic conditions, leading to congested health facilities and negatively impacting quality of care. Other factors which make it difficult for patients to access medicine include the cost of transport and distance of communities from health facilities.

In 2016, Project Last Mile partnered with USAID to support the South African National Department of Health (NDoH) and a number of NGO partners with the aim of improving the distribution and dispensing of medicines through the creation of patient-friendly alternative pick-up points for patients to access chronic medications, in particular ARV treatment. Since 2016, the number of patients enrolled in the program has increased five-fold. More than 2 million patients now receive their medication from 1 050 existing pick up points with 463 more being activated to meet patient needs.

Optimising distribution routes in Mozambique

In Mozambique, where over 70% of the population lives in rural and remote areas, often cut off from essential public infrastructure and health services, Project Last Mile has rolled out programmes to optimise distribution routes for life-saving medicines.

Best practices in logistics are applied, following a similar process to that which Coca-Cola uses to map distribution for a Coca-Cola project. This blueprint helps to improve delivery and increase availability of medicines for people in hard-to-reach areas.

Project Last Mile Mozambique have up until April 2019 successfully visited and mapped the locations of 950 (60%) of the total health facilities across six provinces in Mozambique – Gaza, Inhambane, Tete, Zambezia, Nampula and Sofala. The remaining four provinces will be visited and mapped over the next 12 months.

The programme uses the same mapping approach to develop optimised route-to-market logistics and delivery plans to streamline the governments’ medicine warehouse and delivery system. Improving the distribution and storage of life-saving medicines can have a big impact on improving access to those who need it most.

“When the capabilities and expertise of the private sector are intentionally shared and applied to address key bottlenecks in medicine and health service availability, this can contribute to a significant improvement in the efficiency of public health services. We aim to develop a replicable model that inspires more of these types of partnerships”, says Ristow.