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POUZN Releases Key “Lessons Learned” on Introduction of Zinc in India

Zinc is widely recognized as a highly effective and inexpensive way to treat childhood diarrhea. However, the challenge of introducing a new product and encouraging people to use it—particularly those at the bottom of the pyramid — is enormous. In 2005, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) created the Point-of-Use Water Disinfection and Zinc Treatment (POUZN) Project and contracted with AED to introduce zinc in combination with Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT) in India, Tanzania, and Indonesia.

The premise of the project was that the private sector could play a key role in creating demand for the product, ensuring supply at an affordable price, and, ultimately, increasing its usage, thereby reducing the severity and incidence of debilitating diarrhea in children. To do this effectively required changing both patient and provider treatment patterns, while creating a viable marketplace for the product.

To date, the POUZN Project has succeeded in gaining private sector buy-in to this cause. Twenty-two companies (up from 0 at project start) now produce and/or market zinc nationwide through their own supply chains and sales forces. Companies have invested their own money for detailing, promotional materials, training, market research, public relations, and professional meetings. Since the project began, the project has leveraged $7 million from the commercial sector on a USAID investment of $1.52 million. Additionally, key medical opinion leaders, who play a critical role in influencing the prescribing behaviors of both formal and informal health care providers, are strong supporters of zinc treatment. Their support, in turn, continues to play a role in zinc’s growing acceptance by 15,000 pediatricians, 75,000 general practitioners, and more than 100,000 pharmacists and other providers, including India’s large number of informal medical practitioners and drug sellers.

Demand for zinc, as measured by sales, increased from essentially zero before the start of the POUZN project to more than 10.6 million courses of treatment sold between 2005 and 2009. Availability of zinc in rural drug shops increased from 0 to 50 percent in the target areas.

Click here to read the full report (PDF, 602kb)

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Posted May 2010

Read more about the Point-Of-Use Water Disinfection and Zinc Treatment Project (POUZN) project