Merck Announces Collaboration to Improve Maternal Health through Expanded Access to Family Planning
LONDON, 11 July 2012 – Merck (NYSE: MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today announced that they will work together to expand access to family planning, a critical step in improving the health of women around the world. Merck intends to pledge up to $25 million over eight years as part of Merck for Mothers – the company's 10-year initiative to reduce maternal mortality around the world. This pledge will be matched by the Gates Foundation as part of its commitment to family planning. These contributions will advance efforts to help reach United Nations Millennium Development Goal 5, which calls for a 75 percent reduction in maternal mortality and universal access to reproductive health by 2015.
The announcement, made today at the London Summit on Family Planning, is part of a new, coordinated effort to ensure that voluntary family planning services reach an additional 120 million women and girls in the world's poorest countries by 2020. More than 150 leaders from donor and developing countries, international agencies, civil society, foundations and the private sector also pledged their support to improving access to family planning information, services and supplies.
"Merck is proud to work in collaboration with the Gates Foundation to help to ensure that many more women around the world have the information and services they need to make practical and informed choices about planning their families," said Kenneth C. Frazier, Merck's chairman and CEO. "This important initiative will help us accelerate the work of Merck for Mothers in saving women's lives."
Family planning is recognized as playing an important role in reducing maternal mortality because it decreases the number of high-risk pregnancies and allows mothers sufficient time to recover between pregnancies. Experts estimate that more than 200 million women who wish to safely plan and space their births do not have access to modern family planning services and information, placing them at greater risk of death and disability during pregnancy and childbirth.
"New and innovative partnerships like this one play a key role in giving women access to family planning," said Chris Elias, president of Global Development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "Family planning is one of the best investments a country can make in its future."
The new collaboration between Merck and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will focus on three key areas:
Increasing awareness of and education about family planning services among women and girls in resource-limited settings
Improving the supply chain for quality family planning resources and services to improve maternal health
Working with governments, the private sector, civil society and local health providers to increase support and access to family planning services
Global disparities in women's access to family planning services are striking – the unmet need for family planning can be as high as 40 percent in countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The collaboration will target countries with the greatest need for family planning services.
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.
About Merck for Mothers
Merck for Mothers is a 10-year, half-billion-dollar initiative to create a world where no woman has to die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Drawing on the company's history of discovering innovative, life-saving medicines and vaccines, Merck for Mothers is applying Merck's scientific and business expertise – as well as its financial resources and experience in taking on tough global healthcare challenges – to reduce maternal mortality around the world. As part of its focus, the program seeks to accelerate access to proven solutions; develop game-changing prevention, diagnostic, and treatment technologies; and support public awareness, improved policies, and broader private-sector engagement in the area of maternal health.
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