Merck for Mothers Launches Initiative in India to Reduce the Number of Women Dying During Pregnancy and Childbirth

$10 Million Commitment to Improve Access to Maternal Health Services in Areas with High Rates of Maternal Deaths

Tuesday, May 14, 2013 4:23 pm EDT

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DELHI, INDIA

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"Maternal mortality is one of the oldest and most preventable health tragedies in the world today. While India has made progress in addressing this, there is still a lot that can be done collectively by the government, NGOs, and the private sector"

Merck (NYSE: MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, announced today that Merck for Mothers has launched its global initiative for helping reduce maternal mortality in India. It is partnering with three leading non-governmental organizations to improve the quality of healthcare that pregnant women in India receive through the private sector. Merck for Mothers is a 10-year, $500 million global initiative launched in 2011 to help create a world where no woman dies from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. 

The Hindustan Latex Family Planning Promotion Trust (“HLFPPT”), Pathfinder International with World Health Partners (“Pathfinder”) and the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood with Gram Vaani (“WRA”) together will reach nearly 500,000 pregnant women in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Jharkhand – areas with some of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the country. 

“We have made great strides toward Millennium Development Goal 5, but we know there’s more work to do to reach that target,” Mamta Sharma, chairperson, National Commission for Women, said speaking at the India launch. “These new partnerships demonstrate innovative ways of working together to address this issue and bring India closer to our goal.”

Most care in India is provided by the private sector, which includes a diverse array of independent physicians, nurses and midwives as well as clinics, hospitals, pharmacies and health insurers. Additionally, private care is often supported by ambulance services, mobile service providers and financial institutions.

“Maternal mortality is one of the oldest and most preventable health tragedies in the world today. While India has made progress in addressing this, there is still a lot that can be done collectively by the government, NGOs, and the private sector,” said Naveen Rao, M.D., lead, Merck for Mothers. “Our focus in India is to work with partners who have the capability to improve maternal health care services delivered through the private sector and ultimately decrease the number of women still dying during pregnancy and childbirth.”

Merck for Mothers and its partners are working to accelerate India’s progress toward the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal 5, reducing the global maternal mortality rate by 75 percent by 2015. This goal is not currently on track to be achieved. While India has reduced its rate by approximately 67 percent since 1990, Indian women are still dying during pregnancy and childbirth and there is still a lot that can be done to help prevent maternal mortality.

These partnerships will complement the government’s initiatives to reduce maternal mortality. Specifically, efforts in India will focus on:

  • Making private care more affordable by offering private providers standardized tools, protocols and branding across networks of health facilities;
  • Improving quality of care by training doctors, nurses and health workers and offering women new ways to rate the care they receive; and
  • Connecting women in remote areas to doctors and nurses in cities through telecommunication and internet.

Talking about the benefits of the launch to India, K. G. Ananthakrishnan, managing director, MSD India, said, “We are proud to have partnered with such prestigious organizations and launch our global Merck for Mothers initiative in India. I believe the project has great potential to benefit our country in helping reduce maternal mortality with a collaborative approach.”

HLFPPT: “HLFPPT aims to offer innovative, affordable, and sustainable reproductive health solutions,” said Sharad Agarwal, chief executive officer, HLFPPT. “In line with its mission, HLFPPT has launched the Merrygold Health Network, with support from Merck for Mothers in Rajasthan. The project envisages to provide affordable maternal health service at an honest price thereby improving maternal health status in 19 high focus districts of Rajasthan.”

PATHFINDER: “Pathfinder works to uphold the rights of women to survive pregnancy and childbirth, and to sustain good health for themselves and their newborns, through provision of, and advocacy for, adequate, high-quality, and comprehensive services,” said Mathew Joseph, country representative, Pathfinder India. “We believe in each woman’s right to respect, safety, and dignity – including during pregnancy and childbirth. Globally, we advocate with governments and donor organizations to sustain investment in addressing MNH challenges.”

WRA: “India has seen considerable progress in the last few years in bringing down maternal mortality,” commented Dr. Aparajita Gogoi, national coordinator, White Ribbon Alliance India. “Now what we need to do is to devise integrated strategies to ensure safe motherhood with emphasis on quality of care in service provision.”

About Merck for Mothers

Merck for Mothers is a 10-year, half-billion-dollar initiative to create a world where no woman dies from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Drawing on Merck’s history of discovering innovative, life-saving medicines and vaccines, Merck for Mothers is applying the company’s scientific and business expertise – as well as its financial and human resources – to reduce maternal mortality around the world. Merck for Mothers is focused on access to quality care; product innovation; and awareness and advocacy.

Merck for Mothers has already launched the Merck for Ugandan Mothers (MUM) partnership with Population Services International and their local affiliate – the Program for Accessible Health, Communication, and Education (PACE). Additionally,Merck for Mothers awarded 22 grants to improve maternal health in 18 countries around the world as part of the Merck for Mothers Global Giving Program.

About Merck

Today's Merck is a global healthcare leader working to help the world be well. Merck is known as MSD outside the United States and Canada. Through our prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, and consumer care and animal health products, we work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to healthcare through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. For more information, visit www.merck.com and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

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