Many people are ill but do not realize it. This means that, although effective medicines and therapies are available, these individuals either do not receive treatment or do not receive it in time. To try and prevent this, we conduct global campaigns to raise awareness and improve knowledge of diseases, their symptoms and treatment options. Ultimately, healthcare professionals, communities and patients can only make informed decisions if they have the right knowledge and 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 support.
We often join forces with committed partners to conduct educational campaigns for prevention, early diagnosis and awareness, which also helps to build the capacities of medical professionals working in the fields of research, technology and healthcare.
How we build awareness
The strategic direction and the output of all awareness activities are aligned with our respective businesses. This means that the different business units plan and implement our diverse awareness projects either on a global level or through their local offices, with projects organized according to the specific needs of the local area. 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, they are governed by internal policies and guidance for reviewing our interactions with health systems and by the review processes for communication materials.
Global awareness campaigns
We regularly conduct campaigns, often in collaboration with patient advocacy groups, to raise awareness of various diseases across the globe. We focus on those diseases that align with our core competencies, expertise and experience along the health value chain, in particular cancer (specifically colorectal as well as head and neck), thyroid disorders, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis. During 2018, we conducted or participated in multiple campaigns that enabled us to reach millions of people.
Awareness and knowledge transfer for thyroid disorders
Throughout 2018, we continued our work to raise awareness of thyroid disorders. At the global level, we supported the International Thyroid Awareness Week in May 2018 for the tenth time. This annual awareness campaign, which we run jointly with the Thyroid Federation International (TFI), aims to highlight some of the lesser-known aspects of thyroid disorders.
To mark this year’s International Thyroid Awareness Week, we commissioned an international survey, together with the TFI, among hypothyroidism patients in six countries. The results suggest that getting diagnosed can be difficult and distressing for many of those affected by thyroid disorders, with 70% of surveyed patients saying that they found the road to diagnosis stressful.
We hosted a number of our own events during the week, with more than half targeted specifically at healthcare professionals. These events connected us with almost 35,000 people, including around 11,000 healthcare professionals. Furthermore, we reached three million people through our own social media activities in 23 countries and an additional 35 million people were touched by news coverage, social media and events.
At the regional level, we launched an awareness and action campaign with the Vietnam National Hospital of Endocrinology, which highlighted the fact that although many women suffer from thyroid disorders, an estimated 50% go undiagnosed. The campaign offered free screening for thyroid diseases in 15 hospitals nationwide, with around 50,000 screenings taking place under the supervision and management of our company´s Vietnam representative office.
Awareness campaigns for cancer
Each year in September, we support the Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week, an initiative by the Make Sense Campaign that is run by the European Head and Neck Society (EHNS). We align with the Make Sense Campaign’s three-year theme, “Supporting Survivorship,” and demonstrate our commitment to the head and neck cancer community through our own “Stand Up for Survivors” campaign. Our publicity material included a video in which a head and neck cancer survivor discussed the challenges she faced during remission. Partners were encouraged to translate our materials and leverage them locally with stakeholders in their region. We also asked subsidiaries to show their solidarity with survivors by sharing photos on social media that showed them representing the key theme and standing up for survivors.
World Cancer Day
On February 4, 2018, we again recognized World Cancer Day, an annual initiative driven by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC). This year, we focused on the future possibilities of cancer care with our campaign “We Can. I Can. Help Shape the Future for Patients.” Teams from around the world got creative, expressing their hopes and aspirations for the future of cancer care through sculptures made from modelling clay. We received almost 330 images of support from 24 countries and our multi-channel social media activity generated over 15,300 views.
Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
During March 2018, we backed Colorectal Cancer (CRC) Awareness Month, an initiative to raise awareness of CRC, its symptoms and the importance of early diagnosis. Our “gut strength: Targeting CRC Together” campaign encompassed three key themes: together, strength and support. We united on social media to share a message of support through a Thunderclap, which reached over 162,000 people worldwide. Colleagues also showed their commitment to the CRC community by sharing photos of themselves visually representing the key themes and using the campaign hashtag #gutstrength.
World Multiple Sclerosis Day
We participated in the annual World Multiple Sclerosis Day (WMSD) in May 2018. This year’s theme was #bringinguscloser to ending multiple sclerosis (MS), which was selected to celebrate advancements in research and care and to look to the future for further developments. A total of 26 organizations of our company participated in this initiative of the MS International Federation (MSIF) by showcasing their support and activities.
We also announced a new campaign, #MSInsideOut, to support the MS community and deepen understanding of the disease. The initiative involved a collaboration with the social network Shift.ms, which acted as executive producers of a new documentary, “Interpreting MS”, which featured unique perspectives from people with MS. The documentary premiered at the 34th Congress of the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS) in Berlin (Germany) in October 2018.
To accompany the premiere of the documentary, we published the report “Living with Multiple Sclerosis: The Carer’s Perspective”, which examines the experiences of those caring for people living with MS. This report was developed in collaboration with the International Alliance of Carer Organizations (IACO) and Eurocarers, the European network that represents informal carers and their organizations. A survey of MS carers across seven countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States) found that almost half of those surveyed became carers when they were 34 years old or younger, and one in three had been caring for somebody for 11 years or more. Furthermore, nearly half reported that their caring responsibilities had negatively impacted their future plans and life goals, while a similar proportion said they suffered from either severe or high stress levels. This emotional toll was compounded by the fact that over half of the carers surveyed felt that people around them don’t truly understand what it means to care for someone with MS. Finally, MS in the 21st Century, an initiative sponsored by our company, launched a website for discussions between patients and healthcare professionals.
World Malaria Day
Since 2015, we have championed World Malaria Day, held annually on April 25, with campaigns that raise awareness for the disease and through engaging in the activities and efforts of our Malaria program. In 2018, we hosted events in Accra (Ghana), joining forces with the Infanta Malaria Prevention Foundation of the First Lady of Ghana and with ASPIRx to support the Ghanaian National Malaria Control Program. These events, which included a scientific symposium, led to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding for a consortium to identify and deploy timely and effective malarial prevention solutions for vulnerable populations.
World Diabetes Day
We launched a global campaign for World Diabetes Day on November 14, 2018, under the concept: See it. Slow it. Stop it. The aim of the campaign is threefold: helping people spot the risks and symptoms of type 2 diabetes, empowering them take action to slow down progression to type 2 diabetes and ultimately equipping them to help themselves or others prevent type 2 diabetes. We continued our partnership with the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), working on a range of educational activities that aim to raise awareness of prediabetes and diabetes prevention and to globally reduce the rise in type 2 diabetes cases.
Online diabetes campaign
According to the International Diabetes Federation, there were 14 million cases of diabetes in Africa in 2015, a figure expected to more than double by 2040. Moreover, approximately 60% of cases go undiagnosed. Awareness of early symptoms of diabetes is low, even among healthcare professionals. To improve early diagnosis and promote awareness of the disease, we joined forces with various partners in March 2015 to launch a digital initiative known as DORA (Diabetes Online Risk Assessment). DORA aims to expand individuals’ knowledge of diabetes by providing free online self-assessment tests to determine their risk of developing the disease. Depending on the outcome of the online test, people have the opportunity to take a free blood test in partnering pharmacies. When this blood test indicates diabetes, they are given a starter pack to help monitor the disease at home. Until recently, DORA had been deployed in Ethiopia, Ghana Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, and South Africa. During 2018, the program was extended to Angola, Botswana, Tanzania and Uganda. Since its launch, there have been more than one million visits to the DORA website.
Healthy Women, Healthy Economies initiative
Nearly one in four women worldwide are held back from achieving their full economic potential due to preventable causes, including exposure to a wide range of communicable and non-communicable diseases. In addition, they spend significant time on unpaid work. This has implications for their own health and well-being. To tackle these challenges, we are committed to Healthy Women, Healthy Economies. Under the auspices of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), we collaborated with representatives of several governments to launch this public-private partnership that aims to identify and implement policies that advance women’s health and well-being to support their economic participation. The initiative has developed a policy toolkit with recommendations to improve women’s health. We have made Healthy Women, Healthy Economies part of our core commitment by forming collaborations to make meaningful change and supporting research to quantify the socio-economic impact of health burdens on women.
We joined forces with the Philippine government and the Philippine Thyroid Association (PTA) to educate more than 2,000 health industry employees on thyroid disorders, a problem that disproportionately affects women. By the end of 2018, our campaign had reached nearly eight million people in the Philippines.
In Jordan, we collaborated with the Royal Health Awareness Society, an NGO that increases awareness among women about thyroid disease and trains health workers on thyroid disorders in women. We reached over 7,000 patients through the Society’s thyroid disease website and an accompanying social media awareness campaign, and engaged and educated over 120 healthcare providers during a scientific event.
We also sponsored and undertook several other projects in Brazil, Spain and the United States.
Quantifying the socio-economic impacts of health burdens on women
In Asia we are working to help our local not-for-profit partners better understand the drivers and impacts of the socio-economic dynamics they will be facing locally. In 2018, we commissioned the Economist Intelligence Unit to study the demographic trends, childbearing choices and family-related policy decisions in China, Japan and the emerging markets of Southeast Asia.
In the United States, we conduct six studies with the March of Dimes Center for Social Science Research to better understand the relationship between economic and employer policies, women’s health and productivity and childbirth. Under a collaboration with the Wilson Center, we supported the development of a policy brief titled “The Juggling Act of Caregiving: Balancing Career, Health, and Gender Roles”.
We are also conducting research to understand the full range of impacts that multiple sclerosis has on the lives of women who are affected by the disease in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Mexico. This research builds on the European report we launched in October 2017.
Embracing Carers initiative
Embracing Carers is a global initiative that we lead in collaboration with prominent caregiver organizations around the world. Embracing Carers is designed to increase awareness, action and discussion for 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. Caregivers spend so much time looking after someone else that they often do not get the recognition and support they need. We raise awareness of the issues caregivers face, activate stakeholders for deeper engagement, establish global best practices and advocacy resources, and endorse the improved integration of carer support into the entire spectrum of care. In 2018, Embracing Carers supported the self-identification of caregivers, extended the reach of the initiative to Brazil and China, established dedicated disease-specific carer resources, and collaborated with carer communities to develop the first-ever Global State in November 2018, which highlights the needs of unpaid caregivers in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.