Case | HBS Case Collection | December 2010

Oral Rehydration Therapy

by Nava Ashraf and Claire Qureshi


This case highlights the puzzlingly high rate of diarrhea-related child mortality in developing countries despite the existence of a simple, effective treatment: oral rehydration therapy (ORT). ORT treated extreme dehydration caused by diarrhea, which was a leading cause of death among young children in developing countries, particularly in Africa and Asia. Heralded in the 1970s as one of the most important medical advancements of the 20th century, ORT contributed to a reduction in diarrhea-related child deaths from roughly 4.5 million in 1980 to 1.5 million in 2000. Yet for reasons unclear to the global public health community, the mortality rate stalled at around 1.5 million, where it remained in 2010. In presenting the problem of diarrhea-related death, the solution represented by ORT, and the various factors potentially influencing ORT utilization, the case allows students to analyze the possible causes of low ORT utilization and potential measures to address them.

Keywords: Health Care and Treatment; Innovation Strategy; Problems and Challenges; Developing Countries and Economies; Technological Innovation; Distribution Channels; Emerging Markets; Consumer Behavior; Performance Consistency; Performance Evaluation; Health Industry; Africa; Asia;


Ashraf, Nava, and Claire Qureshi. "Oral Rehydration Therapy." Harvard Business School Case 911-035, December 2010. (Request a courtesy copy.)