The ColaLife Playbook aims to increase access to co-packaged ORS and zinc

Oct 28, 2020


Simon Berry
Jane Berry
Mother with Kit Yamoyo

A mother in Katete District, Zambia, holds Kit Yamoyo - the brand name of an ORS+zinc co-pack commercialized in Zambia. Photo: ColaLife


The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends co-packaged oral rehydration salts (ORS) and zinca simple and low-cost solution—as the first-line treatment for diarrhoeal disease. Yet access to this lifesaving treatment remains limited in many places where it is needed most.

Our organization, ColaLife, set out to help change that in Zambia. Now we want to assist others to do the same elsewhere.

There are three primary elements to how we plan to help countries increase access to ORS and zinc. The first task was to update the WHO Essential Medicines List (EML)—a global list of recommended medicines that have demonstrated high-impact, cost-effective performance against priority health care needs—to include co-packaged ORS and zinc for diarrhoea treatment. ORS and zinc were already individually listed, but our experience in Zambia showed that packaging the two medicines together helped increase access to both. To add the co-pack to the EML listing, we worked with colleagues in the Diarrhoea Innovations Group (DIG) to implement a global advocacy campaign. We achieved the change in the listing in July 2019. This effectively moved the co-packaging of ORS and zinc out of the “innovation box” and into the mainstream of child health.

Gif displaying "WHO's new gameplan: ORS + zinc copack"
Co-packaged ORS+zinc, recommended by WHO in 2019, helps increase the use of both medicines for childhood diarrhea treatment.

Second, we continue to work with DIG to help accelerate the uptake of the new WHO recommendation by national ministries of health by sharing evidence, developing advocacy materials, and seeking collaborations with global players such as UNICEF and WHO.

The third element of our assistance is the ColaLife Playbook. The playbook took two years to develop and condenses ColaLife's over a decade of experience to improve access to co-packaged ORS and zinc for the treatment of diarrhoea—especially in children. It is for those who wish to implement the new co-packaging recommendation and would like to benefit from our experiences, to avoid “re-inventing the wheel”. It is a starting point, an interactive reference tool and guide for individuals and organisations wishing to transform access to diarrhoea treatment in a specific region, country, or state.

ColaLife Playbook image
The ColaLife Playbook is a living document intended to support users on the frontline.

The playbook is designed to be a live and interactive document. It is published alongside a commitment from ColaLife to support users on the frontline. ColaLife will do this by responding to comments made and questions asked in the playbook itself. The playbook uses internal and external hyperlinks. The internal hyperlinks enable users to jump around the document quickly to find what they want. It also allows deep links to be sharedlinks to particular sections or images—to help with collaboration and precise signposting between users. External links take users to relevant content on the ColaLife blog and other external resources that provide more in-depth information.

The playbook is open to everyone and be can accessed here: Although the playbook's url has been designed to be memorable, we recommend that users create a bookmark on your first visit so that you can get back to the playbook quickly and easily whenever you need to.

Finally, we would like to thank our volunteer readers, who have helped us test and improve the playbook pre-launch. Their feedback and suggestions have made it all the richer. The development of the playbook will be on-going as we continue to receive feedback and questions from users.

The ColaLife Playbook pre-launch readers:

  • Dr Boniface Fundafunda
  • Felix Lam
  • Federica Luciolli
  • Héritier Runoro Bahoza
  • Hope Randall
  • Dr Ian Goldman
  • Dr Judy Scott-Goldman
  • Laura Kollenberg
  • Natalie Horne
  • Nick Freeland
  • Dr Roma Chilengi
  • Simon Burne
  • Sue Hooks
  • Toby Beresford
  • Walt Buchan