Building Equality for Women’s Health
Women’s equity and empowerment is one of the 17 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), the SDG 5, and integral to all dimensions of inclusive and sustainable development. Gender equality by 2030 requires urgent actions to eliminate the many root causes of discrimination – one of these being inequality of health especially in low- and middle-income countries and particularly in Africa.
While men and women in Africa are impacted by a range of health issues, the biological and socio-cultural bias means that women and girls are disproportionately affected by communicable diseases, such as the Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD), schistosomiasis, and by non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as cancer. Issues including poor healthcare infrastructure, common misdiagnosis of disease in women, underfunding of research into woman’s health and social taboos around female fertility, have led to a huge increase in often preventable illness and death in those countries.
This acute inequality impacts millions of women and girls who are particularly vulnerable to some of the most devastating diseases.
We are committed to advance global health and using our scientific and technological innovation to improve health of underserved populations in low- and middle-income countries.
Our Global Health strategy focuses on diseases that disproportionally impact these populations. One of these is Female Genital Schistosomiasis – a disease of neglect.
Female Genital Schistosomiasis (FGS) is the urogenital infection in women and girls by schistosome parasites and their eggs. FGS can impact on subfertility or cause infertility – leading to stigmatization and exclusion; it increases the transmission of HIV and the risk of cervical cancer through the persistence of Human Papillomavirus (HPV), the causing agent for cervical cancer.
Many women and girls in Africa are very vulnerable to these diseases, which associated to low awareness in the population and to absent, poor or cumbersome diagnosis are often fatal.
In addition, these conditions can cause ectopic pregnancy and severe bleeding during delivery, risking women's lives and consequently impacting families and communities.
An integrated NTD-NCD approach seems ideally suited to bridge solutions for these diseases.
We apply an integrated approach for treatment, disease awareness and infrastructure to address the unmet medical need represented by FGS. We are also creating a platform embedding cervical cancer research and the fight against fertility diseases.
Our efforts support several collaborative initiatives:
- to improve awareness and training
- to identify the burden of FGS in regions in Cameroon
- to complete clinical testing to fix the dose regimen for the treatment in women suffering from FGS
- to aim for an integrated approach of HPV vaccination and FGS diagnosis and treatment with standard-of-care treatment in girls
- to participate in an overarching platform to advance the integration of FGS with cervical cancer and HIV/AIDS programs
- to support a new initiative for Clinical Global Women Health to focus on oncology and fertility
- to develop Artificial Intelligence and other diagnostics for FGS
Who is our champion?
Jutta is leading the Global Health Institute at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. She drives the vision and strategy of the institute and engages with key stakeholders within the global health community. She serves as chair and scientific advisor at various boards and acts as lecturer and visiting professor at various international institutions. Jutta studied Biology in Mainz and Tübingen and received her PhD at the Max-Planck Institute in Tübingen. After her postdoctoral training, she joined biopharmaceutical industries in various assignments with increasing responsibilities and she joined Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany in 2008.