Merck participates in a number of coalitions that work to support women's reproductive health by increasing access to family planning, reducing maternal mortality and promoting collaboration between the public, private and not-for-profit sectors.
In order to ensure appropriate use of our products, Merck works closely with its customers to develop and help implement a framework for quality service provision and related support.
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
In the countries where Merck products are included in family planning programs, we work closely with ministries of health and local implementing partners, who play a pivotal role in supporting training, counseling and other related activities. Our local implementing partners have included Jhpiego, EngenderHealth, Marie Stopes International, International Planned Parenthood Federation, Population Services International, Pathfinder International, and DKT. Such collaboration ensures that countries have the expertise and support they need to achieve their reproductive health objectives.
In 2011, we worked with more than 30 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Central America to provide contraceptive products through numerous partnerships with governments, donors and NGOs. Some of the countries where our Institutional Family Planning services engaged in partnerships in 2011 include Madagascar, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Bangladesh and Vietnam/Cambodia.
As part of our capacity-building and training commitment, Merck provided support and educational grants for governments and/or local implementing partners to train more than 35,000 healthcare providers in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Central America in 2011. Merck also trained and/or provided medical education to many healthcare providers around the world.
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) In 2011, BMGF established the Urban RH Initiative to support countries in achieving their Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (CPR) goals, but frequent stock-outs were found to seriously hinder progress. In order to identify the root causes of these frequent stock-outs and to develop transferable solutions, BMGF launched a supply chain assessment and set up the Global Advisory Board (GAB), to which Merck was invited to represent manufacturers. Merck actively participated in all three GAB meetings.
Population Services International PSI measurably improves the health of people in the developing world through public and private sector development with a large international reach. PSI currently procures Marvelon directly from Merck. In Q4 2011, Merck and PSI signed the global Cooperation Agreement on the Receipt and Use of Implanon, giving the vast PSI network access to Implanon in more than 50 countries. PSI has begun receiving Implanon through donor organizations, e.g., through USAID funding/procurement for its program in Madagascar, and direct supplies of Implanon from Merck are currently in discussion. Merck previously supplied Implanon to the PSI program in Cambodia.
GBCHealth's Healthy Women, Healthy Economies Initiative Healthy Women, Healthy Economies is a strategic partnership between GBCHealth and the State Department bringing together corporations, governments and NGOs to realize shared goals faster and more effectively. During its first phase (November 2010-June 2011), GBCHealth convened leaders from across sectors to map out a global business action plan for promoting opportunity for girls and women that dovetails with U.S. president Barack Obama's Global Health Initiative.
MDG5 Meshwork for Improving Maternal Health The mission of the MDG5 Meshwork is to develop innovative and effective partnerships that contribute to the achievement of Millennium Development Goal 5, which is to improve maternal health. The MDG5 Meshwork connects more than 30 organizations based in Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and the Netherlands working on five projects.
Partnership for Maternal and Child Health The partnership's mission is to support the global health community in working successfully toward achieving MDGs 4 and 5. This mission is expected to be accomplished by achieving the following objectives:
- Build consensus on and promote evidence-based, high-impact interventions and the means to deliver them through harmonization
- Contribute to raising $30 billion (for 2009–2015) to improve maternal, newborn and child health through advocacy
- Track partners' commitments and measure progress for accountability
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 shape, create and lead The C-Exchange.
Reaching Out to Young People
Teen pregnancies put young mothers and their children at risk. Children of teen mothers have higher rates of stillbirths, deaths in the first weeks after birth, preterm births, low birth weights and asphyxia. Ninety-five percent of births among women ages 15 to 19 occur in low- and middle-income countries. Fourteen percent of all unsafe abortions in low- and middle-income countries are among women of this age group. Pregnant adolescents also experience high rates of anemia, malaria, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, postpartum hemorrhage, and mental disorders, such as depression.
U Ch00se Campaign Since 2009, Merck has supported the U Ch00se Campaign in Bulgaria to foster a national awareness and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), targeted at young people (ages 11–26) and providing information on sexual and reproductive health and healthy lifestyles through multichannel communication tools, including peer education. The U Ch00se Campaign is managed by the Association of Cancer Patients and Friends (APOZ), a Bulgarian NGO, in coalition with other local groups and organizations.
Improsexual Venezuela According to UNFPA, Venezuela has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in South America, and more than 20 percent of births are to women under 20. The organization Improsexual uses interactive theater, music, art and storytelling to inform young people and help them take control of their reproductive and sexual health.
For more information on other adolescent-education interventions that work to improve sexual and reproductive health, and to reduce unintended pregnancies and transmission of STDs, including HIV, please visit our HIV Partnership section.
Providing Information about Women's Health
Global Library of Women's Medicine (GLOWM) is designed to provide medical professionals worldwide with universal access to a vast and constantly updated, peer-reviewed resource of clinical information and guidance covering the whole field of women's medicine. GLOWM receives 2 million hits monthly, from 160 countries.
Human Network International (HNI) This project uses the innovative approach of an on-demand interactive voice response (IVR) directory service, via the ever-growing use of cell phones, that will afford thousands of women of reproductive age in Madagascar the opportunity to learn, at no cost to them, about the modern family planning method choices that are available and accessible to them, and will help assure more informed choice. The project aims to contribute to increasing the modern contraceptive prevalence rate.
Understanding Women's Reproductive Health Needs
Merck is supporting Mahidol University in Thailand in conducting research to better understand Thai women's reproductive health needs and barriers to access (e.g., access to cervical cancer screenings).
Fighting Maternal Mortality
Drishtee Foundation works to reduce maternal mortality in India by educating women and their families about causes of maternal deaths and facilitating access to maternal health services through village Drishtee Health Kiosks.
Expanding Access to Care
Jhpiego is an international nonprofit health organization affiliated with The Johns Hopkins University working to prevent needless deaths among women and their families. Jhpiego works with health experts, governments and community leaders to provide high-quality healthcare and develops strategies to help countries by training competent healthcare workers, strengthening health systems and improving delivery of care.
One of Jhpiego's key strategies for increasing the use of reproductive health (RH) and family planning (FP) services among the urban poor in Kenya is to offer routine integrated health camps in neighborhoods that lack access to quality healthcare services. In some of these camps, hundreds of women have accessed FP services in a single day.
One major component of the integrated health camp is a Health Wagon—a mobile clinic offering a clean and private environment for patients. Integrated health camps, with a Health Wagon present, will offer the full range of FP methods, as well as confidential counseling to all patients about their FP options. Jhpiego will also use the Health Wagon as a mechanism to provide on-the-job training and other updates for providers who work in urban healthcare facilities that may not offer a full range of RH/FP services.
With nine Merck-sponsored health camps, approximately 9,000 people will be offered FP information and services for short-term methods. An additional 450 people are expected to adopt long-acting and permanent FP methods at the health camps.
Economic Empowerment to Help Women
Join My Village is a click-to-commit social change initiative that gives people the power to inspire charitable donations from companies to women and girls in Malawi and India. A project of CARE, Join My Village is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty, with a special focus on working alongside poor women. For each click of a mouse, Merck will donate $1.00 to send girls to school on scholarships, bring female teachers to village schools and give village women the resources to launch their own businesses. Merck also matches personal employee donations dollar for dollar.
For family planning programs in the developing world involving Merck's contraceptive implant, IMPLANON® (etonogestrel implant), the company requires the recipient governments and partnering NGOs to sign a Cooperation Agreement for the Receipt and Use of IMPLANON (CARUI). The cooperation agreement includes:
- Merck's commitment to a comprehensive service approach that provides and/or supports capacity building in service delivery, including pre- and post-insertion counseling and insertion/removal training
- Distribution requirements that must be met by Merck and local partners to ensure that all clinics/providers meet training and quality assurance requirements, provide sustained services over the duration of the product's life (three years), and can access referral centers in case more specialized care related to IMPLANON is required
- Merck's commitment to fully fund all costs related to ‘”training of trainers” and provide training materials, including audiovisual materials, training kits, artificial arm models, placebos, etc. Merck may provide additional technical and financial assistance for direct and cascaded training activities of healthcare providers on a case-by-case basis
- Procedures to report product complaints and adverse events
- Provisions regarding compliance with U.S. and recipient country applicable laws, and Merck's ethical and business compliance policies