Better Lives Through Better Health

Abbott’s Community-led Total Sanitation Project in Gujarat


Established in 1910, Abbott is one of India’s oldest and most admired healthcare companies. We provide consumers with a diverse range of diagnostics solutions, medical devices, nutritional products and established pharmaceuticals that span the continuum of care. With over 14,000 employees in India and extensive local knowledge, we offer relevant solutions that ensure the healthcare needs of  consumers, patients, doctors, hospitals, blood banks and laboratories are being met throughout both rural and urban areas.


Our Corporate Citizenship Philosophy

At Abbott, we believe that responsible, innovative and sustainable business plays an important role in building a healthy and thriving society. Through our own actions and in partnership with others, we’re working to reach more people, in more places, than ever before – helping people build better, healthier lives and stronger communities in India and around the world.


The Issue of Poor Sanitation in India

According to the 2011 census, nearly half of India’s people have no toilet at home. Lack of access to toilets causes communicable diseases, preventable disease epidemics, malnutrition and poor overall health. It also poses risks for the safety of women and children, poorer attendance of girls in schools, and significant challenges for senior citizens with mobility and health challenges, among others. All of these issues have a tremendous negative impact on individual and public health, and limit the potential of people and communities.


As a commitment to help advance India’s “Swachh Bharat” drive to improve sanitation and hygiene, Abbott has invested Rs 3 Crores (U.S.$500,000) in a program that has introduced an inclusive model for making communities “Open Defecation Free” – not just by building toilets, but by changing minds and habits. Through a comprehensive partnership, we’re working to make sustainable,  long-term improvements in sanitation in two villages – with the broader goals of helping people live their best lives through better health, and sharing learnings that can help advance “Swachh Bharat” efforts across the country.


Our Approach

The issue of poor sanitation is further complicated by the fact that simply building toilets hasn’t turned out to be an effective solution. An all-India survey conducted by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) in 2015 revealed that only 46% of 9.5 million toilets built in rural India were being used1.


Abbott’s approach, therefore, was rooted in infrastructure development, and education and building awareness to drive long-term change.. We aimed to not only increase the sanitation coverage but also to motivate the communities and local bodies to adopt sustainable practices and facilities.


Our objective was to bring about a meaningful, sustainable change through a robust series of capacity building interventions that were delivered through
community based organizations to ensure effective and efficient engagement.


Abbott chose the villages of Talodara and Dadheda because of their close proximity with Abbott’s manufacturing plant at Jhagadia. These villages were mostly inhabited by communities with extremely poor sanitation. Nearly 70% of the households did not have toilets and over 85% of the community members were completely unaware of the linkages between health and sanitation — spurring us to take up the challenge to help them become “open defecation free” (ODF).


Abbott’s Program Model

We worked through the following steps:

  • Needs Assessment: To identify the requirements of the community and individual households.
  • Demand Generation: We started by creating a demand for sanitation facilities through active engagement with households, schools and community leaders. This engagement included folk plays, presentations, one-on-one counseling. We then built a few model toilets to demonstrate the advantages of the twin-soak pit model that we adopted to work around the limited drainage and water infrastructure that the villages had access to. These activities initiated dialogue and debate amongst the residents and encouraged community participation.


Construction of Toilets: We built toilets with a twin soak-pit model to ensure that the toilets do not become defunct after a few years. Two pits are used alternatively: while one pit is filling, the other pit remains out of service. The pits are switched every 3-4 years. Storage tanks, wash basin and electrical fittings have been included in the toilet design to ensure a pleasant experience for the community.


  • Behavioral Change Program: We partnered with Mahila Hosing Trust SEWA for continuous community-based-engagement with door-to-door visits every week to drive the need for behavior change. Meaningful participation of women and children was ensured to promote gender equality and social inclusion by enabling them to become the drivers of behavioral change in every household. We also focused on fostering community leadership and helped all households learn how to maintain their toilets. Additionally, Abbott employees volunteered in two local schools in an effort to promote the need for better health and sanitation.
  • Community Feedback: Our initiative was built on a robust feedback mechanism, wherein we sought inputs from community members on construction, sanitation and other needs, and worked with implementation agencies to ensure that their needs were met. Feedback from the community was critical in ensuring that the people were satisfied with the toilets and, hence, would continue to use the facilities.
  • Robust Monitoring Mechanism using an IT Platform: Activities were tracked on an ongoing basis and data collection from beneficiaries was driven through p3- a cloud based mobile application that enables realtime, geo-tagged data. The p3 mobile app was linked with Google maps to enable users to track the activities that were progressing in each of the locations, using the map as an interface.


The Impact

To address various health and safety issues that community members were faced with, Abbott worked through an inclusive approach that not only ensured the right model of toilets in these villages, but also influenced mindsets and behaviors through 6 Community Based Organizations (CBOs). These CBOs helped drive acceptance, encourage participation and ensure sustainability. Here are some of the highlights of the impact on-ground:

  • 100% households in the two villages have access to sanitation facilities.
  • 517 Toilets built on twin-soak-pit model designed for low water consumption and independent functioning have been working flawlessly over the past 12 months.
  • 3150 community members have been engaged through 109 awareness and capacity building sessions.
  • These capacity building programs were delivered through 6 Community Based Organizations (CBOs) that comprised 95 community members, mostly women.
  • In the Initial phase, only 20% of CBO activities were led by community members, and it grew to 100% as the engagement progressed, providing stability and sustainability to the program.
  • Both villages achieved Zero Open Defecation in September 2016 and this status has remained unchanged since then.
  • 100% households have been equipped to handle the maintenance and upkeep of toilets.
  • In terms of behaviour change, community members are demonstrating enhanced personal and household hygiene awareness, and better understanding of the importance of sanitation and its effect on health.