Many people have health conditions but do not realize it. This results in individuals either not receiving treatment or not receiving it in time, even though effective medicines and therapies are available. Therefore, we conduct global campaigns to raise awareness and improve knowledge of diseases in accordance with our expertise. Ultimately, healthcare professionals and patients can make informed decisions only if they have proper knowledge and the right information about symptoms and treatment options.
Our approach to raising health awareness
Awareness plays a key role in our approach to improving access to healthcare. We empower communities, medical professionals and patients with appropriate tools, information and skills so that they can make informed decisions about prevention, diagnosis, treatment, care, and disease management.
For example, we 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 business units. Our various business units plan and implement our awareness projects either on a global level or through our 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. 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 are aligned with our core competencies, expertise and experience along the health value chain. These include cancer (specifically colorectal as well as head and neck cancer), thyroid disorders, diabetes and multiple sclerosis in particular. We also conduct awareness campaigns in low- and middle-income countries, mainly focusing on the neglected tropical disease schistosomiasis as well as other, more familiar infectious diseases, such as malaria.
Awareness and knowledge transfer for thyroid disorders
In May, we supported International Thyroid Awareness Week (ITAW) for the 12th consecutive year. The 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.
This year’s ITAW was dedicated to the theme “mother and baby”, with a focus on mothers learning how to protect themselves and their babies from any potential complications related to thyroid disorders. The campaign reached people in many countries via virtual events and press articles. On social media, we generated over 5.7 million views and 34,000 likes. In addition, our symptoms checker received almost 300,000 views and over 166,000 tests were carried out.
World Cancer Day
February 4 marks World Cancer Day, an annual initiative led by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC). Building on the theme “I Am and I Will”, we created a compelling campaign to communicate our ongoing commitment to transform cancer care. Our campaign focused on how personal contributions make a collective impact on the evolution of oncology care. It was supported by more than 240 images from 20 countries, receiving over 400,000 views on social media.
World Multiple Sclerosis Day
We participated in World Multiple Sclerosis Day on May 30 – an annual awareness day by the MS International Federation (MSIF). This year’s official theme was #MSConnections and it focused on building community connection, self-connection and connections to quality care while challenging the social barriers that leave people affected by MS feeling lonely and socially isolated.
For World MS Day, we collaborated with Twitch, the world’s leading service and community platform for multiplayer entertainment. Through an eight-hour livestream with Twitch influencers and special guests, we virtually connected people affected by the disease and raised awareness among young gamers. The livestream was also used to raise money for MSIF’s “Informed Decision Making” program, which helps create digital resources so that people with MS have access to the best possible information on the disease for free.
World Diabetes Day
The theme of this year’s World Diabetes Day was “The Nurse and Diabetes”: As the name suggests, the goal was to highlight the incredible work carried out by nurses. We also extended our awareness-raising activities to prediabetes, the lesser-known precursor to type 2 diabetes. We partnered with social media influencers to launch our social campaign #AreYouReadingTheSigns. The aim of this campaign was to highlight the importance of individual responsibility when it comes to health as well as the significance of lifestyle changes in diabetes and prediabetes management. We launched our prediabetes initiative one day before World Diabetes Day in order to raise awareness of prediabetes and inform the public of the risk factors for developing the condition. Ultimately, we wanted to encourage people to use our prediabetes symptom checker to understand their level of risk and take appropriate action if necessary.
Fertility awareness week
European Fertility Week (EFW) in November 2020 provided an opportunity for our company to increase awareness of in vitro fertilization and the patient journey. Using our social media channels, we drew attention to the importance of providing equal access to infertility treatment across Europe and relying on medical guidance to provide safe, efficient and non-discriminatory treatment to all who need it.
Awareness campaigns focusing on low- and middle-income countries
We use global health-related campaigns to foster awareness of diseases, such as schistosomiasis and malaria as well as non-communicable diseases with high prevalence in low- and middle-income countries. The campaigns are part of our commitment to improve health in those countries.
Global health-related awareness campaigns in 2020 included:
- World NTD (Neglected Tropical Diseases) Day (January 30)
- World Water Day (March 22)
- World Health Day (April 7)
- World Malaria Day (April 25)
- World Mosquito Day (August 20)
- World Water Week (August 23-28)
- World Science Day (November 10)
- Universal Health Coverage Day (December 12).
Healthy Women, Healthy Economies and Embracing Carers™ are two initiatives that we are using to promote awareness of issues that go beyond the patient. The interconnectedness of both initiatives is rooted in shared themes and goals. In particular, the Covid-19 pandemic demonstrates the critical importance of caregiving as a part of the healthcare ecosystem and the significant role that women play as caregivers: 70% of caregiving hours globally are provided by women and girls. Effective caregiving is intrinsically linked to the health, well-being and prosperity of women. Through these initiatives, we aim to both promote women’s empowerment and expand access to healthcare.
Healthy Women, Healthy Economies
To empower women to overcome the challenges of communicable and non-communicable diseases and rise to their economic potential, we are committed to the Healthy Women, Healthy Economies initiative. Within the scope 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, thereby supporting their participation in the economy.
In 2020, we continued our partnership with the “March of Dimes” initiative in a three-year collaboration supporting “Healthy Babies, Healthy Business”, a program that provides health benefits for mothers and promotes family-friendly work environments. As part of this partnership, we support the Center for Social Science Research. In 2020, we helped fund two U.S.-focused studies on issues such as access to healthcare and birth inequities.
Through our partnership with the Wilson Center, we highlighted the disproportionate economic impact of Covid-19 on women. This included a podcast on the pandemic, caregiving and women’s leadership, featuring Belén Garijo, Vice Chair of the Executive Board and Deputy CEO of Merck, and a webinar with expert panelists.
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 frequently 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 challenges faced by caregivers, prompt stakeholders to show deeper engagement, establish global best practices and advocacy resources, and endorse the improved integration of carer support.
In 2020, we launched a survey involving 12 countries to explore the unmet physical, economic and emotional challenges carers face amid the Covid-19 crisis. We want to determine how these challenges differ by gender, socio-economic status, length of time as a carer, the types of conditions under which carers are working, and the level of care needed. We aim to use the results from this survey, in conjunction with other secondary research, to increase media attention, raise awareness of these issues and inform calls to action for policy advancements.