Despite Merck’s efforts to develop and implement effective philanthropic and business strategies to help remove barriers to access, challenges remain due to the complex and multifaceted nature of the problem. To truly address—and, ultimately, solve—the issues of access in developing and middle-income markets, the international community must pool its resources and expertise to strengthen healthcare infrastructure, ensure adequate financing for health, and help to build local healthcare capacity through training and support. Even in developed countries, challenges remain to reach groups of underserved populations.
Merck recognizes that building the capacity of healthcare professionals is a major factor in addressing global health challenges.
In 2009, with support from The Merck Company Foundation, the Earth Institute at Columbia University launched a community health worker training program to strengthen community health services for more than 400,000 people in 10 African countries, as part of the Millennium Villages Project (MVP). The initiative aims to advance the development of a professional cadre of community health workers to fill a critical gap in the delivery of primary healthcare for rural communities throughout Africa.
The program will ensure that participating community health workers are skilled, well trained, properly remunerated, regularly supervised and fully integrated into their countries' healthcare systems. To date, MVP has trained approximately 932 community health workers across 14 Millennium Villages. The Merck Company Foundation renewed its support over three years (2011–2013) for this MVP program to help scale up primary-care systems across Africa.
With support from The Merck Company Foundation, the BroadReach Institute for Training and Education (BRITE) has launched its Management and Leadership Academy (MLA) program in Zambia, which teaches critical management and leadership skills to healthcare professionals to build and strengthen the capacity of their local health systems. This program aims to equip healthcare workers with the knowledge and skills to lead, own and, ultimately, transform the delivery of healthcare in their own countries. MLA teaches “results-based” management, focusing on solving current challenges by combining on-site workshops with case studies and extensive mentoring of program participants.
BRITE is also working with Abt Associates in implementing the MLA program and is receiving additional support under the USAID-funded Zambia Integrated Systems Strengthening Program (ZISSP). BRITE and ZISSP are working in close partnership with the Ministry of Health in Zambia to support the ministry’s ongoing efforts to develop management and leadership capacity at different levels of the health system. Through the MLA program, BRITE and its partners aim to conduct training for healthcare professionals in all nine provinces, across 27 target districts, of Zambia. The first workshop in the MLA training series was conducted among 12 cohorts (6 provincial and 6 district cohorts). By the end of 2011, approximately 250 healthcare workers from various levels of the health system had been trained through these workshops in Zambia.
As part of our commitment to the GAVI Alliance, Merck initiated the Merck Vaccine Network—Africa (MVN-A), a multiyear philanthropic initiative supported by The Merck Company Foundation to help strengthen the capacity of Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) health workers in sub-Saharan Africa. Formally endorsed by the GAVI Alliance in 2003, the MVN-A supports collaborative partnerships in the development and implementation of sustainable EPI management-training programs in Kenya, Uganda, Mali and Zambia. MVN-A also supports the achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals, including reducing by two-thirds the mortality rate among children under the age of five by 2012. MVN-A training programs in Kenya, Mali, Uganda and Zambia trained more than 1,600 EPI health workers across all four countries.
Over the course of three-year, phased programs in Nicaragua and Honduras, Merck committed to donate 1.7 million doses of PNEUMOVAX® 23 (Pneumococcal Vaccine Polyvalent) and provide charitable grants amounting to $1 million to Project HOPE to support efforts to vaccinate vulnerable populations against pneumococcal infections, a major cause of pneumonia.
In partnership with the Nicaraguan and Honduran ministries of health, and utilizing grant funding from Merck, Project HOPE is improving the capacity of each national immunization program by training health workers to plan and implement successful vaccination campaigns. Project HOPE is also providing vital equipment and supplies to each ministry of health, including refrigerators required for the proper storage of vaccines and computers to help monitor and evaluate immunization activities as the initiatives progress in both countries.
As of 2011, the program has trained 5,046 health workers in Nicaragua and 823 in Honduras and has administered more than 96 percent of the initial donated doses of PNEUMOVAX to patients in both countries The project also fostered cross-border sharing of best practices and lessons learned between the National Immunization Program counterparts in each country.
In late 2011, Merck provided $100,000 in funding to the Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB) for their Global Health Systems Strengthening program. The goal of the five-year (2012–2016) program is to increase the demonstrated organizational capacity of 25 of CMMB's developing country partners to manage their pharmaceuticals and supplies in a cost-effective and sustainable manner. The program will contribute directly to the WHO’s stated health system strengthening (HSS) goal of improving norms, standards, procurement, policies and quality standards for medical products.
Since 2001, the Measles Initiative has contributed to saving lives by supporting 80 countries in delivering more than 1 billion doses of measles vaccine and helping to raise measles vaccination coverage to 85 percent globally. In 2008, Merck provided a $2 million grant to the United Nations Foundation to support the Measles Initiative and advance disease surveillance efforts in Africa.
In 2010, we continued our support with an additional $250,000 to support measles immunization and disease surveillance activities in Nigeria during early 2011. More than 28 million children were vaccinated during the measles campaigns in Nigeria, achieving a national coverage level of 99 percent of the target population. Merck’s support enabled the timely notification and investigation of suspected measles cases and outbreaks in the country. Following the immunization campaigns and investigation of outbreaks, the scale of measles outbreaks decreased significantly—by 75 percent.
In 2011, Merck provided $300,000 to strengthen measles surveillance and routine immunization efforts in India, thereby helping to support campaigns in 2012 that aim to vaccinate more than 122 million children.
In addition, many of our partnerships focused on HIV/AIDS are also involved in healthcare capacity building. Learn more.