Many people suffer from certain conditions but do not realize it. This results in individuals either not receiving treatment or not receiving it in time, although effective medicines and therapies are available. To try and prevent this occurrence, we conduct global campaigns that raise awareness and improve knowledge of diseases, their symptoms and treatment options. Ultimately, healthcare professionals and patients can only make informed decisions if they have proper knowledge and the right information.
Our approach to raising health awareness
Awareness plays a key role in our approach to improving access to healthcare. We seek to empower communities, medical professionals and patients with appropriate tools, information and skills so that they can make high-quality, informed decisions on prevention, diagnosis, treatment, care, and disease management.
We often join forces with committed partners to conduct educational campaigns for prevention, early diagnosis and awareness. This also helps build the capacities of medical professionals working in the fields of research, technology and healthcare.
How we build health awareness
The strategic direction and output of all awareness activities are aligned with our respective businesses. Our diverse business units plan and implement our awareness projects either on a global level or through their local offices, with projects organized according to the specific needs of the local community. The offices are also responsible for local mobilization during our global campaigns.
Our commitment: access to health through awareness
Our strategy for addressing access to healthcare incorporates the topic of awareness and is laid out in our Access to Health Charter, which we revised in 2019. Our awareness campaigns are also subject to the respective marketing principles set out in guidelines such as our “Pharma Code for Conducting Pharmaceutical Business and Pharmaceutical Operations.” In addition, our campaigns are governed by internal policies and guidance for reviewing our interactions with health systems and by the review processes for communication materials as well as further global, regional and local rules and regulations.
Global awareness campaigns
We regularly conduct campaigns to raise awareness of various diseases across the globe, often in collaboration with patient advocacy groups. We focus on diseases that align with our core competencies, expertise and experience along the health value chain. These are, in particular, cancer (specifically colorectal as well as head and neck cancer), thyroid disorders, diabetes and multiple sclerosis.
Awareness and knowledge transfer for thyroid disorders
Throughout 2019, we continued our work to raise awareness of thyroid disorders. At the global level, we supported the International Thyroid Awareness Week in May 2019 for the 11th consecutive year. This annual awareness campaign, which we founded together with the Thyroid Federation International (TFI), aims to highlight some of the lesser-known aspects of thyroid disorders.
We hosted numerous events during the week, including events specifically targeted at healthcare professionals. The campaign reached people in many different countries via the events as well as press coverage and social media. We also introduced the world’s first-ever series of thyroid emojis or “thyrojis”, tapping into a popular trend of the 21st century with a series of customized emojis representing the many faces of thyroid disorders.
Awareness campaigns for head and neck cancer
In 2019, we supported two key head and neck cancer awareness events: World Head and Neck Cancer Day (WHNCD) on July 27 and the European Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week from September 16-20. Activities focused on aligning with the UK-based patient advocacy group The Swallows to create an emotive video on the journey of a patient and his carer, tying in with the existing Embracing Carers initiative. The September campaign built on the campaign in July, continuing to work with The Swallows and featuring video footage of the same patient, focusing on the transition from treatment to survivorship.
World Cancer Day
On February 4, we again marked World Cancer Day, an annual initiative led by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC). Building on the UICC’s theme “I Am and I Will”, we created a compelling campaign to communicate our ongoing drive to transform cancer care. Our campaign, “I Am. I Will #TransformCancerCare.” focused on how personal contributions make a collective impact on the evolution of oncology care. It was supported by 250 images from 13 countries generating over 33,000 impressions on social media.
Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
In 2019, we stepped up our efforts to raise awareness of colorectal cancer (CRC). We worked closely with DiCE, a representative body for digestive cancer patients in Europe, to redefine the CRC Awareness Month campaign. We pooled resources, extending the collective reach of the campaign far beyond what would have been possible individually. We maintained a consistent, unifying theme throughout the campaign, encouraging our employees and external audiences to take part. In addition, we developed a suite of materials to maximize CRC Awareness Month activities, including a video on the CRC screening journey and an infographic banner on the importance of such screenings.
Cancer Immunotherapy Month
June 2019 marked the seventh annual Cancer Immunotherapy Month, which aims to raise awareness of the life-saving potential of immunotherapies. On June 14, supporters were encouraged by leading cancer groups to wear white to promote a future without cancer and to promote their activities in social media via #WearWhiteDay. White represents the immune system’s white blood cells (lymphocytes) that fight cancer. It also symbolizes the laboratory coats worn by the scientists and clinicians working to find a cure for cancer and it represents the color of all cancer awareness ribbons combined, which is significant as immunotherapy has the potential to treat all types of cancer.
World Multiple Sclerosis Day
We participated in the annual World Multiple Sclerosis Day on May 30, 2019. This year’s official theme was #MyInvisibleMS, focusing on all the invisible symptoms of the disease. A total of 37 Group companies participated in this MS International Federation (MSIF) initiative by showcasing their activities in support of the MS community under the umbrella of our #MSInsideOut campaign.
As part of our World MS Day activities, we created the My Invisible MS art gallery. It was based on pieces of art created by people living with MS who illustrated their invisible MS symptoms. We displayed the art gallery in 17 different countries around the world.
We remain focused on bringing our commitment to fight MS to life in a meaningful way, addressing patients’ evolving needs and improving the lives of carers. We also recognize the valuable impact that community and grassroots initiatives have in contributing to this effort. As a result, we are working on an initiative through which these groups can apply for a grant to supplement work specifically aimed at improving the provision of support to carers.
World Malaria Day
Since 2015, our company has been championing World Malaria Day, which takes place every year on April 25. We conduct campaigns that raise awareness of the disease. In 2019, we marked the event with our partners in Ghana and conducted an internal awareness campaign to showcase our engagement in the fight against malaria. In particular, the campaign highlighted the One Merck for Malaria program as our company-wide approach towards the control and elimination of the disease. This program leverages competencies from all of our business sectors to deliver integrated and transformative health solutions, such as new diagnostics, therapies and preventive methods, together with approaches that strengthen local health systems in low- and middle-income countries.
More information on the One Merck for Malaria program can be found in the Focus Programs chapter.
World Health Day
On April 7, 2019, we celebrated World Health Day as an opportunity to communicate about the importance of equity in quality health services for individuals, economies and society. The campaign, promoted by the World Health Organization (WHO), highlighted the need for universal health coverage to ensure that all people can obtain the care they need, when they need it.
Since the spread of infectious diseases remains a major global health threat, the World Health Day is an occasion for us to confirm our engagement in combating schistosomiasis and malaria through science and technology innovations.
World Diabetes Day
For World Diabetes Day 2019, on November 14, we launched a campaign that echoed the International Diabetes Federation’s (IDF) theme, namely– “The Family and Diabetes”. The campaign was an extension of the previous year’s World Diabetes Day campaign “See it. Slow it. Stop it.”, which aimed to identify risk factors among people who are likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
The campaign focused on sharing the message that having a supportive family contributes significantly to people’s ability to lead a healthier lifestyle and fight type 2 diabetes.
Our company remains steadfast in its commitment to its partnership with the IDF, working on a range of educational activities that seek to raise awareness of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes management and prevention.
Fertility Awareness Week
European Fertility week provided an opportunity for our company to increase awareness of in vitro fertilization and the patient journey. We created a platform for an open dialogue around the reality of fertility. This helped people living with infertility in Europe to be heard. The platform was supported by our global social media campaign “We are in it together”, which comprised opinion pieces by our senior management and an employee emphasizing the need for collaboration to support female fertility.
At the same time, we launched various country initiatives. For instance, in France we had a #Testyourfertility social media campaign, focusing on prevention and creating awareness of infertility issues among 18- to 24-year-olds.
Healthy Women, Healthy Economies initiative
To help empower women to overcome the challenges of communicable and non-communicable diseases and to rise to their economic potential, we are committed to the “Healthy Women, Healthy Economies” initiative. Under the auspices of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), we collaborate with representatives of several governments through this public-private partnership, which seeks to identify and implement policies that advance women’s health and well-being to support their economic participation.
In July 2019, we partnered with the “March of Dimes” initiative in a three-year collaboration, launching “Healthy Babies, Healthy Business”, a program that supports health benefits for mothers and promotes family-friendly work environments.
Embracing Carers initiative
Embracing Carers is a global initiative that we lead in collaboration with prominent caregiving organizations around the world. Embracing Carers is designed to increase awareness, action and discussion around the often-overlooked needs of caregivers. We believe that the topic of caregiving is one of the most under-addressed public health issues of our time, with caregivers receiving little recognition and support despite providing vital services for others. We raise awareness of the issues faced by caregivers, prompt stakeholders to show deeper engagement, establish global best practices and advocacy resources and endorse the improved integration of carer support into the spectrum of care.
In 2019, Embracing Carers worked to transform awareness into action by launching a global “Time Counts” campaign, which encouraged people to find large or small ways to help a caregiver in their lives and pledge that time. Embracing Carers also provides support to more than 30 patient and carer groups globally, enabling them to create initiatives dedicated to behavioral change and peer-to-peer support programs to improve caregivers’ lives.