Employee Ambassador Spotlight: Rose Mariano

Question 1: As a regional leader, can you tell us about your role and involvement with Merck for Mothers, and why you are passionate about maternal health?

Answer: I currently am the Social Business Innovation Lead for the Asia Pacific region. Previously, I worked in Policy Communications and Patient Engagement with Merck in the Philippines. My background is in community development and access to health, so you could say I’ve always been passionate about these including supporting women’s access to the health services that they need to live a healthy and productive life. During my 10 years with the company, I’ve had the privilege of supporting the Merck for Mothers program, which launched in 2011, as well as being a part the employee ambassador program which I believe is a wonderful way for our broader colleagues to get a better understanding of the work that we do on the ground with our partners, what we’re accomplishing and its impact.

Here in the Philippines, we have a local saying: ang nanay ang ilaw ng tahanan, which translates to “mothers are the light of the home,” and I’ve always believed this saying to reign true. Every day, I see the value of the mothers within my community and how vital they are towards guiding, hopefully providing a ‘bright’ future for their families. That being said, I am very appreciative that a company like ours has such a powerful commitment to be able to improve the lives of mothers and children, especially in underserved populations who need it the most.

Rose Mariano

Question 2: How is the program helping address the challenges that mothers face in your region?

Answer: The Asia Pacific region is very diverse in terms of culture and health systems. The barriers to access to health coverage to improve maternal health outcomes in this region also varies from one country to another. However, there are a number of initiatives supported through the Merck for Mothers Global Grants program that are currently being implemented or have already been completed throughout the region which have really addressed the unique challenges that each market or population holds.

In the region, we support programs that not only touch mothers, but also female adolescents and women of reproductive age who need information and access to health services. Our grantees and collaborators work to promote safe birth practices, strengthen midwifery education, empower local health governance through bridging leadership, foster health-seeking behaviors and improve access to family planning services through workplace programs, to name a few. My hope is that we are able to build sustainable models which can be an inspiration to health systems or replicated around the globe. It gives me pride knowing that we’re engaging the many diverse stakeholders within this field so that we can build a more favorable and conducive environment where mothers and families can thrive and be productive.

Question 3: Is there a success story from a completed project in your region that stands out to you?

Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF)

Answer: The Merck for Mothers Global Grant program that I had the opportunity to oversee when I was in the Philippines with the Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF) stood out to me because this was one of the first grantees for the program in AP. This program aimed to improve maternal care in 20 Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas (GIDAs) in Samar and Northern Samar provinces. With ZFF and the local health officials, I was given the opportunity to be onsite and witnessed pregnant women, mothers and their babies having to ride for hours motorcycles and small boats to reach the nearest local health center (not even a hospital!) I was able to walk in the shoes of the mother in trying to understand their difficult pregnancy journey. It was eye-opening being on the ground and it touched my heart personally and gave more meaning to what I do every day.

To be able to see the decrease in maternal and infant mortality rates and the increase in access to high-quality care throughout the implementation years of the program in the GIDAs is what gives purpose to what Merck for Mothers is really doing for mothers and children around the globe. Amidst the roadblocks that the program experienced over the years, at the end of the day, the successes were tangible and measurable, the program was embraced and is continued to be sustained by the local government and health partners, and the model is now adopted in other similar areas in the country- and this is something that our colleagues, collaborators and leaders are very proud of.

Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF)

Question 4: Looking back on the program’s progress over the past 10+ years, what are you most proud of – and looking forward to the next decade, what initiatives or milestones are you most excited about?

Answer: For me, I am very proud that our continued commitment to Merck for Mothers is still present and at the forefront of our everyday work. As a healthcare company, we are uniquely positioned in this space to use our expertise to really help those in areas where it is most needed. I am proud to see that Merck for Mothers has evolved over the years, creating and working on programs that respond to local women's needs, elevating their voices and focusing on how resources can increase health equity in maternal health care and support. It’s not just access to services, but looking at a woman as a whole being and their impact to the community.

I am most excited to continue to look at the impact that Merck or Mothers has on strengthening health systems in countries where we are present. Looking ahead, hopefully more opportunities will be provided for nonprofits or nongovernmental organizations, as well as employees to be even more aware and involved with the initiative.

Question 5: Why is it important for others to get involved, and what is your advice to those interested in supporting Merck for Mothers mission to help end maternal mortality?

Answer: I think it is important for others to get involved with the Merck for Mothers program because it gives us pride knowing that we are doing impactful work for mothers and the communities in which we serve.

My advice to those interested in supporting the program would be firstly, to learn all that you can about the program and our overall mission. The beauty of Merck for Mothers is that anyone can get involved as an employee ambassador, and we would be more than happy and excited to hear your thoughts and ideas as we collectively support this focused initiative of the company! I believe that there is no better person to speak about the impact of Merck for Mothers but an employee themself.