March 2013 – Merck has officially launched Merck for Ugandan Mothers (MUM), a partnership with Population Services International (PSI) and its local affiliate, the Program for Accessible Health, Communication and Education (PACE), to improve the private delivery of maternal healthcare in up to 30 districts in Uganda. The program is expected to reach more than 150,000 pregnant women over three years.
Approximately 4,700 Ugandan women die each year due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth, making maternal mortality one of the country's most pressing – and preventable – public health challenges. While Uganda's maternal mortality rate has declined substantially since 1990, the likelihood that a woman will die while giving life in Uganda is approximately 50 times higher than in the developed world. That is part of the reason why Merck identified Uganda as one of its priority countries for its Merck for Mothers initiative, a long-term, $500 million effort to reduce maternal mortality worldwide. MUM is the first of five country program launches that Merck is expected to announce this year.
The MUM program is exploring the potential of private health providers to improve the quality, accessibility, and affordability of maternal health services in some of the poorest and hardest-to-reach regions of Uganda. According to the World Bank, a significant proportion of people in Uganda receive their healthcare from private providers who are rooted in local communities and therefore very accessible. However, private care can be expensive, unregulated, and variable in quality.
MUM focuses on four key areas: fortifying the network of private health providers, improving access to maternal health supplies and information, making care affordable, and developing community-based transportation models to get women to care during an emergency. Valued at more than $9 million over three years, Merck's MUM program in Uganda will:
Expand PACE's private franchise clinic network and provide technical and business training for health providers;
Enhance the role of local pharmacies in providing information on safe motherhood and linkages to care;
Explore a community-based emergency transport system to connect women to care; and
Test innovative methods of making maternal health services more affordable, including a community health insurance model.
MUM's partnership with PSI and PACE complements the work of Saving Mothers, Giving Life – a public-private partnership among the U.S. Government, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Every Mother Counts, Project C.U.R.E., and Merck for Mothers.
The announcement of the MUM program is the culmination of more than two years of working with experts and practitioners in the field to understand how and where Merck could make the greatest impact in reducing maternal mortality. The program was also informed by the findings of Fostering Healthy Businesses: Delivering Innovations in Maternal and Child Health, a report co-authored by Merck and published by the U.N. Secretary-General's Every Woman, Every Child initiative. The report examines how the local private sector is serving the health needs of women and children in developing countries, and recommends how to strengthen the ability of private health providers and health businesses to deliver care to low-income families in a sustainable manner.