Strengthening Systems for Safer Childbirth

A call to action to accelerate progress in ending maternal mortality

September 14, 2021

During the celebration of its 10th anniversary, Merck for Mothers announced today the creation of a new global collaboration, Strengthening Systems for Safer Childbirth, to support collective action at the grassroots level to address the maternal health challenges and accelerate progress to meeting the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) maternal mortality target, committing $25 million in new funding. This new collaboration will form part of the Merck for Mothers’ continued commitment to maternal health and its goal to help ensure essential maternal and reproductive health services are available for 25 million women by 2025.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has stretched health systems and, according to some estimates, almost halted progress towards the maternal mortality SDG target, collaboration across sectors will be critical in the strengthening of networks of care that will support healthy pregnancies and safe childbirth for women across the globe. Strengthening Systems for Safer Childbirth will be an ambitious step forward in improving maternal health through multisectoral coalitions implementing evidence-based solutions informed by local community priorities.

“As we look at the actions that will be needed to meet the Sustainable Development Goals in 2030, it is more important than ever that we collaborate across sectors to solve problems and create solutions that address global maternal health care gaps,” said Dr. Julie L. Gerberding, chief patient officer at Merck. “The launch of Strengthening Systems for Safer Childbirth reflects the ongoing work of Merck for Mothers and our company’s commitment to generate fresh thinking and new approaches to tackle the issues that women are experiencing related to maternal health.”

Strengthening Systems for Safer Childbirth will leverage successes from other Merck for Mothers programs including Safer Childbirth Cities, an initiative aimed at fostering community-led solutions to help U.S. cities become safer, more equitable places to give birth, and MOMs Initiative, an innovative financing collaboration to scale sustainable business models that advance maternal health. By taking critical learnings from these programs, including the power of integrating contributions from the local private sector into mixed health systems, Strengthening Systems for Safer Childbirth will help augment health system capacity, improve health system efficiency, responsiveness and resilience, and ultimately help improve maternal health outcomes.

“We know from a decade of work through Merck for Mothers that when you support the integration of the contributions of the local private sector – from care providers, innovators and entrepreneurs – into health systems, we can help women have greater access to sustainable solutions for high-quality, affordable, respectful care wherever they seek care,” said Dr. Mary-Ann Etiebet, lead, Merck for Mothers.

A diverse review committee will help select organizations to mobilize local implementing coalitions that will propose solutions that can contribute to lower maternal mortality within a defined geography – whether at the state, county, district or city level. All applicants must demonstrate an understanding of local challenges and opportunities and engage women and communities in design and implementation of evidence-based solutions.

Expressions of interest are currently being evaluated. Future collaborators will be announced thereafter.