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Healthy Women, Healthy Economies

Unlocking the power and potential of women around the world


Our Vision

Harnessing our expertise to address larger health issues for women

We know that health is more than treatment. We see the bigger picture of how health and prosperity are intertwined for women, and we are committed to doing our part. The Healthy Women, Healthy Economies initiative strives to unleash the economic power of women by bringing governments, employers and other interested stakeholders together to help improve women’s health so women – and by extension their families – can join, thrive, rise in their communities and live better lives. 

Health and prosperity are intertwined for women

Our ‘Why’

Women face health obstacles to achieving their full potential

According to the International Labour Organization, 865 million women across the globe are not reaching their potential to contribute more to their national economies due to preventable causes.[1] We see the enduring obstacles women must overcome to achieve their full potential and the impact that has on societies around the world.

Obstacles like the wide range of non-communicable diseases, in what the World Health Organization calls “the biggest threat to women’s health worldwide.”[2] Or the impact of unpaid work on women around the world. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), women in every part of the world spend more time on unpaid work than men do,[3] with significant impacts to their own health and well-being as they try to manage the dual responsibilities of paid and unpaid work. And this has far reaching healthcare-related consequences for women.

Women who have caregiving responsibilities at home are six times as likely to suffer from depression or anxiety.[4] Depending on where one lives, diagnosis, treatment and outcomes often favor men. For example, twice as many women who have heart attacks die within one year, compared to men.[5]

Succeeding in today’s economy requires companies to escape the constraints of our previous models of success and embrace diversity – the lifeblood of both evolution and innovation. If women participated in paid work at the same level as men, their economic power would add $28 trillion USD to the annual global GDP by 2025.[6] According to the 2017 World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap report, it will take 217 years until women have equal pay and representation in the workplace.[7] This is to the detriment of society, because sustainable economic growth cannot be achieved if half of the workforce – women – are excluded or not fully utilized.

We have a responsibility to do better. Healthy women lead to healthy economies.

Our Beginning

Unlocking the potential of women creates economic growth

Our commitment to a healthy society goes far beyond delivering medicines that can help to create, improve and prolong life. As a provider of solutions for diseases that affect women disproportionately, such as thyroid disorders, multiple sclerosis and infertility, we are investing in initiatives that can help to improve major aspects of women’s health, from awareness to education, access to healthcare and government programs.

Originally conceived in 2015 within the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in collaboration with the governments of the United States and the Philippines, Healthy Women, Healthy Economies aims to identify and implement policies that advance women’s health and well-being to support their economic participation. Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany has adopted the program’s mission, and is expanding and making it part of our core commitment by supporting research to quantify the impact and forming collaborations to advocate for change.

Our Beliefs

Promoting health, balance and equity

  • All women should have access to health solutions and awareness of the options available to them to advance their health and well-being. We aim to tackle the non-communicable and communicable diseases that disproportionately impact women and prevent them from participating and succeeding in the workforce.
  • We must reduce the severe detriments to women’s health caused by trying to balance family and workplace responsibilities. We believe in supporting women who work – both paid and unpaid work – and creating supportive work environments and health systems that can help women achieve greater work-life integration and improve their overall health and well-being.
  • We are all responsible for creating equitable workplaces. We believe all public and private organizations have a role to play in creating equitable work environments where talented women and men can thrive and rise, without sacrificing their health.

“Empowering women to fully participate under equal conditions is not a fashion that will pass – it is a matter of fairness, ethics and common sense.”

Belén Garijo

CEO Healthcare

Our Approach

Partnering for change

Our experience tells us that public-private partnerships are key to addressing these challenges, because businesses and governments both want to generate sustainable growth. We partner with world-class organizations to bring our commitment to life.  

Our partnerships at work

Embracing Carers Initiative
Embracing Carers recognizes that caregivers are a critical element of the healthcare continuum. In many countries around the world, the act of caregiving disproportionately affects women, impacting their economic, emotional and physical well-being. In this intersection between supporting all caregivers, while acknowledging the unique impacts that caregiving has on women, we are actively engaged in quantifying this impact and advocating for progress on behalf of those filling this rewarding and challenging role. We have also developed a peer-to-peer Employee Resource Group for our employees who are also caregivers.

Learn more

Understanding paid and unpaid work
We are working to develop policies to help reduce the health impacts of managing the dual responsibilities of paid and unpaid work on women. Our collaboration with Dr. Felicia Knaul, a renowned economist leading the examination of women’s unpaid labor, is currently focused on Canada, China, Chile, Mexico and Peru.

Understanding the Global Burden of Cancer in Women
As part of a larger partnership with the American Cancer Society, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany supported the release of a report at the 2016 World Cancer Congress focusing on the increasing impact of cancer in low- and middle-income countries, both on women’s health and their economic participation. The report emphasizes that while the societal and economic costs of cancer are considerable and even catastrophic, this burden of disease, loss of life and economic hardship is not inevitable.

Learn more

Quantifying the Socio-Economic Impact of Multiple Sclerosis on Women in Europe
There are more than 700,000 people with MS in Europe, 450,000 of which are women. Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany commissioned Charles River Associates to conduct research to develop evidence of the full range of impacts that MS has on the lives of women, their families, and their roles in society as well as identify policies that would improve the environment for this patient group.

Learn more

Merck More Than a Patient
Through our collaboration with “Women for Cancer,” cancer patients’ associations and cancer institutions across Africa, we aim to uplift women cancer survivors to reclaim their lives and become active contributors to the economy. We will also work to challenge the perceptions about cancer.

Merck More than a Mother Campaign
This campaign educates medical professionals, supports governments to define policies to improve access to safe and effective fertility care, addresses the need for interventions to reduce stigmatization and social suffering of infertile women and raises awareness about male infertility.

Empowering Berna
This program empowers infertile women by training them to establish their own small businesses so that they can be independent and re-build their own lives. “Empowering Berna” works with women from Cote D’Ivoire, Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda.

MERCK STEM program for Women & Girls
This program started in 2015 as a global movement for Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and aims to build research capacity and empower young African researchers. We have also launched the MARS best African WOMAN researcher.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
Healthy Women, Healthy Economies follows the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals aimed at improving women’s health and empowerment.

Learn more

Contact the Healthy Women, Healthy Economies team

  1. Women, Work and the Economy: Macroeconomic Gains from Gender Equity, IMF, pg. 4, September 2013: http://bit.ly/1eZUmXc
  2. Non-Communicable Diseases: A Priority for Women’s Health and Development, World Health Organization, pg. 2, 2011: http://bit.ly/24O1X40
  3. Unpaid Care Work: The missing link in the analysis of gender gaps in labour outcomes, OECD Development Centre, December 2014: http://bit.ly/2HPQyKC
  4. Reverberations of family illness: A longitudinal assessment of informal caregiving and mental health status in the nurses’ health study, American Journal of Public Health, October 2011: http://bit.ly/2Bowvna
  5. Women and Heart Disease Fact Sheet, Women’s Heart Foundation: http://bit.ly/2ks70XF 
  6. The Power of Parity: How Advancing Women’s Equality Can Add $12 Trillion to Global Growth, McKinsey & Co., September 2015: http://bit.ly/20ZkOK4
  7. The Global Gender Gap Report 2017, World Economic Forum, November 2017: http://bit.ly/2xWtWmC  

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