We use our expertise to support health initiatives all over the world, particularly concentrating on promoting local healthcare infrastructure, providing vocational training and continuing education for medical professionals, and educating people on health issues.
Our commitment: The principles of our community involvement
As with the other ways we support the community, we align our health activities with our Group Policy on Contributions to Society. 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.
Volunteering in health initiatives
As part of our 350 Good Deeds campaign, in 2018 many of our employees around the world committed to supporting health initiatives and institutions. For example, several hundred employees from ten countries participated in running, cycling, paddling, and hiking events to boost awareness of diseases such as breast cancer and multiple sclerosis, as well as to raise funds for charitable health initiatives.
Our employees were also involved in renovating and decorating healthcare facilities. In Brazil, for instance, 50 of our employees helped remodel a hospital in São Paulo that specializes in the treatment of breast cancer and is a point of contact for women who have experienced sexual violence. Our people painted the walls of the chemotherapy reception area and the outpatient clinic using materials provided by our company.
In Germany, we support the Dr. Mildred Scheel hospitality house in Greifswald by donating supplies and providing manpower. Creating a sense of warmth and well-being, this facility provides a place where the families of children with cancer can stay during the difficult treatment phases. In April 2018, our employees helped expand and enhance the grounds around the facility. On World Children’s Day in June 2018, we also helped out at the organization’s summer festival.
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 doing so, 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 2018, we supported more than 50 Continuing Medical Education (CME) programs offered by 17 independent medical education providers, and we newly designed 12 Medical Education Programs. More than 320,000 healthcare professionals participated via e-learning platforms and in-person courses.
Health education in India: Fighting anemia together
In India, more than 50% of all women suffer from anemia. As part of our Healthy Women, Healthy Economies initiative, we launched the Swasth Nari Sashakt Parivar (healthy woman, healthy family) program in March 2018, joining forces with the non-profit organization Doctors For You. Reaching almost 4,800 women in Mumbai aged between 18 and 35, the program tested them for anemia and offered nutritional counselling and medical treatment for those with low hemoglobin. Unique to this initiative, the nongovernmental organization not only treats anemia, but also offers skill development courses to the women undergoing treatment. Starting in 2019, around 100 women who have shown improvement and demonstrated an interest in advancing their skills will be able to train as a cosmetician or a seamstress. This opportunity encourages all participants to care for their health and stick to the treatment cycle.
Disease awareness in Brazil
Since rare cancer types are often detected too late and pose a serious threat to the health of individuals, we want to drive the conversation on these diseases and raise awareness for early diagnosis and treatment. To this end, in 2018 we partnered with the Brazilian non-profit “Instituto Vencer o Câncer” to launch a joint social media awareness campaign on rare skin cancer types. Going beyond social media, we supported an event in Brasília to inform citizens about rare forms of cancer. Taking place at the same time as a public hearing on the subject, it was attended by more than 500 guests and served as a platform for healthcare professionals to share their knowledge. Initiated in June 2018, a local forum on rare cancers complemented our efforts to bring healthcare professionals and other stakeholders together.
To raise awareness for the neurodegenerative disease multiple sclerosis (MS), around 20 employees in Brazil organized a roadshow featuring an MS mini-simulator and additional interactive information, touring four states in 30 days. Visitors had the opportunity to take a virtual journey through the brain of a patient to better understand the disease and the challenges patients face in their everyday life. More than 1,000 visitors tried out the mini-simulator. In addition, employees traveled around three Brazilian states with an MS suitcase that lets carers of MS patients experience living with the condition. The suitcase contained items such as gloves that make it difficult to zip clothes and toothbrushes that can create a tingling sensation in the limbs.
To raise awareness of colorectal cancer, we presented our Giant Intestine Exhibition in March 2018 in Brazil. Featuring an inflatable model of the organ large enough for visitors to walk through, the exhibition provided audiovisual information on the human intestine, with more than 1,100 people attending.
Further educational health projects can be found under “Health awareness”.
Improving access to healthcare in Madagascar and India
Through the AR-MADA initiative in Madagascar, we are reaching patients who have inadequate or no access to effective and affordable medical care. Six times a year, volunteer doctors travel to different regions of the island to distribute medicines free of charge and help by providing expertise. We assist the initiative with money and donations. In addition, one of our employees travels there every year to support activities. In 2018, more than 30,000 patients benefitted from the project.
Emergency medical care is also a challenge in some remote parts of India, which is why we are working with several local non-governmental organizations to overcome this issue. In 2018, for example, in India our company donated 15 motorbike ambulances to the Ministry of Health in the federal state of Goa. The bikes are equipped with emergency medical care kits and located at strategic sites across the state’s major cities. Managed and operated by GVK EMRI, a not-for-profit partner of the Goa government, these bikes can travel faster than standard ambulances in high traffic, thus ensuring quick treatment of patients.
Since 2014, we have also led the River Ambulance Program in India in association with the non-profit organization Narmada Samagra. The River Ambulance transports health workers and provides healthcare solutions to local populations living in the remote region along the Narmada River.
Improving access to healthcare through the Foundation sponsored by Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany
The Foundation sponsored by Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany is a non-profit organization with limited liability that aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people and advance their lives through science and technology – especially in developing and underserved regions. It is the only foundation of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany and since 2017 has been overseeing many of our philanthropic activities. 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, with a special focus on women and young people.