Power from below: test kits in the hands of retailers pressure producers to iodize salt

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Power from below: test kits in the hands of retailers pressure producers to iodize salt

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$1 million - $5 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Providing salt retailers with test kits for iodised salt so that they can test the salt they purchase at wholesale markets. This creates pressure on salt producers to iodise their salt and drives non-iodised salt out of the market.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Despite laws and regulations in Kyrgzystan demanding universal iodisation of salt to fight iodine deficiency diseases and despite a high awareness of the population of the need to consume iodised salt the coverage of households with iodised salt remained far below the desired minimum of 90% because of fraudulent business practices (labeling non-iodised salt as iodised or using the less stable potassium iodide instead of the preferred potassium iodate for iodisation)
About You
Swiss Red Cross
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Section 1: About You
First Name


Last Name



Swiss Red Cross, Kyrgyz-Swiss-Swedish Health Project, financed by SDC and Sida

Section 2: About Your Organization
Organization Name

Swiss Red Cross

Organization Phone

0041 31 387 7111

Organization Address

Swiss address: Rainmattstr. 10, 3001 Bern. Kyrgyz address: Sydykova 187/1, Bishkek 720001, Kyrgyzstan

Organization Country
Your idea
Country your work focuses on
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What makes your idea unique?

The use of test kits in iodised salt promotion is not new. However, to my knowledge and after review of published literature, they have only been used either to monitor the coverage with iodised salt or for educational purposes. What is new in our idea is that they are used to create market pressure on producers to iodise their salt. This pressure is created by distributing the test kits to a sufficiently large majority of retailers and ask them to use them when purchasing salt at wholesale markets.

Do you have a patent for this idea?

What impact have you had?

1) Coverage with iodised salt in the whole country over 90% (see details below under Results)
2) adoption of the approach by the Ministry of Health, including its financing, and countrywide extension


Providing a large majority of salt retailers with test kits for iodised salt that react only to potassium iodate and asking them to use these kits when purchasing salt at wholesale markets. Volunteers provide them with new test kits and test a sample of salt periodically, reminding retailers of using the test kits


1) over 80% of retailers have test kits (2008 data)
2) In all regions where we introduced the approach we saw an increase in coverage with iodised salt within one year. See the following list.
Naryn region October 2002: 76% – September 2003: 90%
Talas region: April 2005: 91% – April 2006: 97%
Issyk-kul region: April 2006: 62% – April 2007: 90%
Batken region: September 2007: 85% – September 2008: 94%
Chui West region: September 2007: 85% – September 2008: 93%
3) The approach very likely contributed to the considerable decrease in goitre in school students in Kyrgyzstan during the last decade (see attachment)
4) Adoption of the approach by the Ministry of Health of the Kyrgyz Republic

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.

1) continued implementation of the approach by the Ministry of Health
2) continued distribution of test kits by volunteers
3) continued use of test kits by retailers at wholesale markets

regarding 1) The test kit approach has been adopted by the public health department of the Ministry of Health. Therefore funding is secure and implementation can continue countrywide.
regarding 2) The volunteers from the Village Health Committees like this task and will therefore likely continue distribution of test kits and periodic testing of samples at retailers.
regarding 3) The retailers know that people demand iodised salt and they know that volunteers will test samples periodically, and therefore will likely continue to use them at wholesalers

What would prevent your project from being a success?

1) discontinuation of support of the approach by the ministry of health (unlikely as it is successful and iodine deficiency disorders are a serious issue in Kyrgyzstan)
2) discontinuation of volunteers distributing the test kits (nothing so far indicates that this might happen)

How many people will your project serve annually?

More than 10,000

What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

$50 - 100

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy?


What stage is your project in?

Operating for more than 5 years

In what country?
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?


If yes, provide organization name.

Swiss Red Cross

How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with businesses?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

The partnership with the Village Health Committees is critical as they distribute the test kits to the retailers and periodically test samples of salt at retailers
The partnership with the government (the Ministry of Health of the Kyrgyz Republic) is critical as it has adopted the appraoch and implements it countrywide

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization?

Further growth is not possible as it is already being implemented countrywide.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

We had just established the first Village Health Committees, voluntary organisations ready to work for health in their villages. They had identified goitre as one of their main health issues. I learned then about the availability of thousands of test kits in another organisation that didn't know what to do with them. I immediately thought that these kits could be very powerful tools in the hands of the village health committees, if they tested salt in the households and gave them to retailers to use them at wholesale markets. We asked to get the kits from the other organisation and got them for free, and could quickly document the effect they had on the presence of iodised salt at retailers and in households.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

Dr. Tobias Schueth from Germany is a public health physician who has worked for the last 15 years for community development and health in rural areas of South Asia and Central Asia. Since 2001 he is the country representative of the Swiss Red Cross in Kyrgyzstan and has developed there the countrywide Community Action for Health program, which has become a part of the national health reform.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Friend or family member

If through another, please provide the name of the organization or company