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The private sector has an important role to play in contributing to the achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals regarding women’s health.

The fifth Millennium Development Goal, Improve Maternal Health, sets a target of reducing maternal mortality (Goal 5a) and achieving universal access to reproductive healthcare (Goal 5b) by 2015, both major contributors to the overall health of women, families and society.1 While progress has been made, the rates of maternal mortality remain high in many countries, and access to modern contraceptive methods remains limited, especially among the poorest and least-educated women.

Enabling couples to determine whether, when and how often to have children is vital to helping achieve safe motherhood, healthy families and healthy communities. Voluntary family planning helps protect the health of women by reducing high-risk pregnancies and helps protect the health of children and mothers by allowing sufficient time between pregnancies. Research has shown that appropriately spacing pregnancies helps improve mother and child survival rates2 and reduces the risk of preterm birth.3 The use of family planning methods can also reduce the number of unsafe abortions and associated complications.4

Access to modern contraceptives is an important aspect of family planning. At Merck, our multifaceted approach supports efforts to improve access to family planning services and contraceptives for the women most in need of them. We are actively engaged in areas where maternal mortality is high and the prevalence of contraceptive use is low.5

1 http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/mdgoverview/mdg_goals/mdg5/

2 http://www.rhcatalyst.org/site/DocServer/Birth_Spacing_Research_Update_USAID_12-30-02_Final.pdf?docID=162

3 http://www.marchofdimes.com/news/jul19b_2011.html

4 Singh S., et al., Guttmacher Institute and United Nations Population Fund; 2009. www.guttmacher.org/pubs/AddingItUp2009.pdf

5 http://www.everywomaneverychild.org/resources/un-commission-on-life-saving-commodities/about

Merck participates in a number of coalitions that support women’s reproductive health by increasing access to family planning, working to reduce maternal mortality and promoting collaboration between the public, private and not-for-profit sectors.

Throughout the world, Merck has partnered with organizations and supported projects that work to increase women’s access to health services, to reduce maternal mortality, to increase awareness of reproductive/sexual health among adolescents and vulnerable populations, to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS, and to promote women’s empowerment and access to economic opportunities.

Improving access to information is essential to ensuring that girls and women can manage their health, reduce unintended pregnancies, and understand and obtain essential health services. Merck supports various programs and partnerships that provide health education and increase awareness around the world.

Partnering for Implementation

Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition (RHSC)—The RHSC is a global partnership of public, private and nongovernmental organizations dedicated to helping all people in low- and middle-income countries gain access to and use affordable, high-quality supplies that ensure better reproductive health.

The coalition brings together diverse agencies and groups with critical roles in providing contraceptives and other reproductive health supplies. These include multilateral and bilateral organizations, private foundations, governments, and civil society and private-sector representatives. Merck participates in various RHSC working groups, including the Market Development Approaches Working Group and the Resource Mobilization and Awareness Working Group. We also signed on to the RHSC’s Hand to Hand campaign to reach the goal of 100 million new users of modern contraception by 2015.

The C-Exchange—The overall goal of the C-Exchange is to convene a group of corporate partners that will work together to bring women’s health products and services to market and scale them up in developing countries. The C-Exchange will focus on technological solutions that, if accessible, will help improve the health of girls and women. Access to four of the solutions—contraception, mobile communications, HPV testing and vaccination, and misoprostol—is available today, but scaling up can be complex and challenging. Merck is a member of the C-Exchange’s leadership group of 10 to 12 private-sector corporations committed to helping Women Deliver—a global advocacy organization working to improve the health and well-being of girls and women—shape, create and lead the C-Exchange.

Family Planning 2020 (FP2020)—Merck participates in the FP2020 Country Engagement Working Group, which is working to facilitate access to funding, technical assistance, and country-to-country support for transformational, country-owned family planning programs. FP2020 works with governments, civil society, multilateral organizations, donors, the private sector, and the research and development community to enable 120 million more women and girls to use contraceptives by 2020. It is based on the principle that all women, no matter where they live should have access to lifesaving contraceptives and supports the UN Secretary-General’s global effort for women and children’s health.

The Bellagio Group—Merck is a member of the Bellagio Group, a group of international experts on family planning and reproductive health that strives to find innovative solutions that expand contraceptive choice and accelerate universal access to reproductive health services by increasing availability of Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARCs). The Group asserts that if all women, men, and young people do not have a full and informed choice of contraceptive options, they do not have full access. Meeting most recently in November 2013 at the International Conference on Family Planning in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the group reached a consensus on a statement and recommendations for action.

For more information on how we partner with customers and other stakeholders, please visit our Access to Reproductive Health section.

 

Last Updated December 19, 2013