It is unfortunate that despite the various technological advances in the field of medicine, the number of pregnancy- and childbirth-related deaths continues to rise.
Current statistics show that in the Philippines, the maternal mortality ratio has risen to 221 per 100,000 live births, equivalent to about 11 mothers dying daily due to pregnancy and other related causes—which is a far off the United Nations’ target of 52 per 100,000 live births by 2015, under the Millennium Development Goals.
Fortunately, global pharmaceutical company Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD) and the Zuellig Family Foundation have heeded the call of the Department of Health to help in the government’s crusade to reduce maternal deaths in the country.
MSD and Zuellig Family Foundation recently entered into a three-year joint development initiative, aimed at implementing the “Health Change Model,” which is meant to help 21 geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas in Samar Island.
Through the “MSD for Mothers and ZFF Community Health Partnership: The Joint Development Initiative” stakeholders, including the DOH, will be enhancing the health leadership and governance in these 21 areas, reforming and strengthening local health systems and ensuring the quality of prenatal and obstetric care.
Being the first initiative in Asia of the MSD for Mothers Global Giving Program, MSD is providing a P20-million grant for the partnership, with a counterpart funding of P18.4 million from the Zuellig Family Foundation.
“We launched the ‘MSD for Mothers [Global]’ program slightly more than a year ago in September 2011, at the United Nations in New York. The aim of this very significant corporate responsibility initiative is to help create a world where no woman has to die from pregnancy and childbirth, and to help reduce the burden of maternal mortality globally,” explained MSD Asia Pacific president Patrick Bergstedt.
According to Bergstedt, “MSD for Mothers” will focus on addressing the two leading causes of maternal mortality, which are the excessive and uncontrolled bleeding after childbirth, known as post-partum hemorrhage, and the life-threatening high blood pressure during pregnancy, known as pre-eclampsia.
“We will also work with governments, organizations and health experts to address responsible family planning goals and programs that play an important role in reducing maternal mortality. Through this joint development initiative, we at MSD reaffirm our pledge to help the world be well by aiding the Philippines to meet its Millennium Development Goal in maternal health,” Bergstedt added.
Over the long-term, MSD is hoping to achieve its five main targets namely: apply its scientific and business expertise in making proven solutions more widely available; develop new game-changing technologies; improve public awareness of this issue; engage with policy makers and health experts; and foster private sector engagement to address maternal mortality.
Meanwhile, Zuellig Family chair Roberto Romulo noted that Zuellig was fortunate to have MSD as a partner willing to provide resources to the 21 municipalities in Samar Island. The group will be applying the same strategic interventions, which include training and mentoring of 63 mayors, municipal health officers and community leaders from the 21 municipalities.
“Using the Essential Intrapartum and Newborn Care Initiative of the World Health Organization, we will also train 102 midwives and 1,862 village health workers in efforts to increase community participation and improve health-seeking behavior,” Romulo said.
“Given that these are very challenging areas where functional health systems have to be established, positive health outcomes may, realistically speaking, not be possible in a short span of time like what happened in our past cohorts despite the implementation of the same program. But, difficult as it may be, health reforms must start now. We in the partnership are taking up this challenge so that no woman in Samar dies of preventable pregnancy and childbirth complications and the poor enjoy quality healthcare services,” Romulo said.