Community Health Promoters (CHP) are the heart and soul of the Living Goods system. They live in the communities they serve and therefore understand the needs of their neighbors. They do not work as volunteers or salaried staff—they are empowered entrepreneurs who earn an income by providing products and services that improve the lives of their customers. They aspire to make a difference AND make a living. Living Goods uses a highly-selective screening process that includes references, tests, and role-playing. We often pick fewer than 20 out of every 100 applicants. The typical CHP is a mother, 25 to 50 years old. They are savvy and connected, with rich social networks that they leverage to spread health education and build their businesses. They visit families in the convenience and privacy of the home, where they check children's health, support pregnant moms, and advise parents on improving at-home health practices. Customers can call their CHP day or night for help when a child is ill.
Living Goods provides each Health Promoter with all the tools she requires to serve a client’s health needs and build a successful business. She wears a uniform with the Living Goods brand that signifies quality and trust. The kit includes flip books that convey key health messages via easy-to-understand illustrations with local language translations, a thermometer to check for fevers, and measuring tape to chart growth. Most importantly, the kit includes a smart phone with diagnosis and pregnancy support apps designed by Living Goods.Living Goods provides each agent with an inventory loan to ensure that she is always in stock.
Living Goods’ broad product mix drives impact AND sustainability. The more agents have to sell, the more income they earn, the more time they invest, the greater impact they deliver. We focus on four categories: simple treatments for common diseases; nutrition; family planning and healthy pregnancy; and money-saving household products. Flagship items include: vitamin-fortified Healthy Start porridge, malaria and diarrhea treatments, solar lamps, and clean delivery kits. Living Goods continually tests innovative new items and adjusts its product mix and pricing to reflect market changes. Increasingly, Living Goods is developing and marketing products under its own brand to better meet customer needs and provide agents with exclusive items that earn better margins.
Even when health systems offer free medicines, clients must pay for transportation that can cost up to a dollar each way and time spent traveling and waiting in lines translates into lost income. Worse still, surveys indicate that health centers are out of vital medicines up to 50 percent of the time. At an average price of 50 cents per treatment, Living Goods clients obtain medicine cheaper than the “free” drugs they can get at a health center. Delivering medicine directly to a customer’s home saves precious time and money. It’s also a lot easier and more convenient—which customers really like.
Living Goods provides every Community Health Promoter with an Android phone equipped with powerful Living Goods-designed apps. Our treatment app makes diagnosing child illnesses easy and accurate; it also sends daily dosage reminders to the patient. The pregnancy app helps flag pregnant women at high risk of complications and sends timed SMS health messages to them every week. These tools enable us to track and report on every customer contact. Any staff member can see the performance of any agent, using any device, in real time. Living Goods also uses this system to broadcast health messages and money-saving promotions to customers via SMS. This drives better health behaviors and increases demand and sustainability.
Every small business needs capital to thrive. Living Goods therefore provides each Health Promoter with a low-cost loan to finance her inventory and ensure that she is always in stock on life-saving medicines. To make doing business easy, agents can make their loan payments and purchases using mobile money transfer. Living Goods is also testing novel approaches for extending credit to customers to help them pay for more expensive items—such as solar lights—with easy weekly installments.
Frequent lapses in stock represents one of the biggest challenges facing public health systems. That’s why Living Goods commits to keeping our branches in stock on essential medicines 100 percent of the time. In Uganda, Living Goods and our partner, BRAC, support over 100 branch locations so that agents are usually no more than five miles from a supply point. We take physical inventories every month and aim to maintain two months of buffer stock at all times. We are also testing a delivery service that enables agents to order and pay by phone and have products delivered by motorbike, saving them valuable time and expense.
Each of our branches supports 30-50 villages and about 100 agents. Customers know that our always-in-stock distribution platform will always have what they need at a price that is cheaper than free because our door-to-door delivery saves them time, money on transportation costs, and ensures that they don’t waste money on counterfeits. We also offer product delivery using delivery drivers, saving agents money for transportation.
We provide agents with three weeks of free base training plus monthly in-service education. We set clear monthly impact and sales targets and track performance in real time using our mobile data platform. Our smart dashboards quickly flag under-performing agents for extra coaching. Agents who repeatedly miss targets are replaced. Living Goods annually tests and re-certifies agents. We also regularly check the quality of data and client interactions using randomly sampled phone surveys.