We use our expertise to support health initiatives around the world. We particularly focus on promoting local healthcare infrastructure, providing basic and advanced training for health workers as well as educating people on health issues.
Our commitment: the principles of our community involvement
We align our health activities with our Group Policy on Contributions to Society, which was revised in 2019. More information is available under “Community involvement”.
In addition, health initiatives are also governed by our Healthcare business sector’s policies and our “ Access to Health Charter“ , which was updated at the end of 2018. We calculate the value of our pharmaceutical donations according to the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for medicine donations.
Educational initiatives for healthcare professionals
We are dedicated to improving medical care around the world. Every year, our Global Medical Education and External Relations unit initiates and supports a multitude of educational initiatives for healthcare professionals. This includes funding educational programs through independent third-party providers as well as leading the development of scientifically and clinically relevant programs. In this way, we advance the knowledge of healthcare professionals, sensitize for clinical disease patterns and encourage familiarization with progressing medical treatment methods, all of which ultimately benefits patients.
In 2019, we supported more than 87 Continuing Medical Education (CME) programs offered by 22 independent medical education providers and designed 17 new Merck Medical Education Programs. More than 100,000 healthcare professionals participated via e-learning platforms and in-person courses.
The educational initiatives we launch through our Global Health Institute help to strengthen local health systems. Our efforts mainly focus on collaborations with academia and R&D institutions in Africa to initiate and implement research programs with focus on schistosomiasis and malaria. We continued these initiatives in 2019. These include, for example, our research collaboration for drug discovery in Cape Town (South Africa) and our Master program at the Makerere University (Uganda) to assess resistance of identified bacterial pathogens and to support the development of an infection control program.
In addition, we support the Ghana Health Service’s National Malaria Control program with microscopy stations and by offering training for health workers to improve malaria and co-infection diagnosis. PhD students and young academic researchers are involved in our research program to study the epidemiology of the malaria parasite.
As part of our collaboration with the European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP), we offer a fellowship program to train African senior researchers on clinical management and clinical study practices.
Health education in India: Fighting anemia together
In India, more than 50% of all women suffer from anemia. In 2019, as part of our Healthy Women, Healthy Economies initiative, we continued our support of the Swasth Nari Sashakt Parivar (healthy woman, healthy family) program.
As part of this initiative, we continued to provide funding for the non-profit organization Doctors For You. By the end of 2019, the organization had reached nearly 4,800 women in Mumbai aged between 18 and 35, testing them for anemia and offering nutritional counseling and medical treatment for those with low hemoglobin. Unique to this initiative, Doctors For You not only treats anemia, but also provides vocational skills development courses to the women undergoing treatment.
Within the scope of the Swasth Nari Sashakt Parivar program, we introduced a new project on hypothyroidism education for women. Launched in the Raigad district of Maharashtra, the project primarily aims to reach out to women in the 18-55 age group, facilitating screening for hypothyroidism, creating awareness and providing both education on preventive measures and information on diagnostic facilities for treatment.
Heightening disease awareness in Brazil
Since rare forms of cancer are often detected too late and pose a serious health threat, we want to drive the conversation on these diseases and raise awareness of early diagnosis and treatment.
To heighten awareness of colorectal cancer, we presented our giant intestines exhibition in March 2019 in São Paolo (Brazil). Featuring an inflatable model of the organ large enough for visitors to walk through, the exhibition provided audiovisual information on the human intestines, with more than 1,000 people attending. We also provided educational videos and speeches given by health professionals.
In partnership with the Brazilian Association of the Personal Hygiene, Perfumery and Cosmetics Industry, we conducted events for patients and caregivers at two hospitals to provide information on colorectal cancer and care during treatment. These included workshops provided by our medical team and a lecture on the importance of skin care during cancer treatment.
Building on our success in 2018, we organized a roadshow in Brazil in 2019 featuring a multiple sclerosis (MS) mini-simulator and additional interactive information. More than 500 visitors had the opportunity to take a virtual journey through the brain of a patient to better understand neurodegenerative disease and the challenges patients face in everyday life. In addition, Merck in Brazil supported the art exhibition “My invisible MS” at the Museum of Image and Sound in São Paulo. The exhibition featured artworks created by patients around the world, depicting the invisible symptoms of MS. Brazil was one of 16 countries that hosted this unique collection of artwork.
Further educational health projects can be found under “Health awareness”.
Improving access to healthcare in Madagascar
We take part in the AR-MADA initiative, which provides sustainable healthcare for underserved populations in remote, rural areas of Madagascar where access to healthcare is very limited or non-existent. At least six times a year, volunteer doctors travel to different remote areas of the island to distribute medicines free of charge, provide expertise and help with local workforce capacity-building. Since its inception in 1999, the project has reached almost 360,000 underserved patients. We sponsor the initiative and provide strategic support.
Improving access to healthcare through the Merck Foundation
The Merck Foundation is a non-profit organization that aims to improve the health and well-being of people and advance their lives through science and technology – especially in low- and middle-income countries as well as underserved regions. Its efforts are primarily focused on improving access to innovative healthcare solutions in underserved communities, building healthcare and scientific research capacity and empowering people in STEM subjects, with a special focus on women and young people.
To find out more about the Merck Foundation’s programs and impact, please visit www.merck-foundation.com.