Tackling Global Health Concerns

Published on: 
Pharmaceutical Technology, Pharmaceutical Technology-05-02-2012, Volume 36, Issue 5

Industry, the public sector, and individuals can play an important role in creating solutions.

In March, I attended the third annual Women in the World Summit, in New York, which brought together leaders from business, government, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to discuss ways to improve the economic, political, and social rights of women globally. The summit, organized by Newsweek/The Daily Beast, generated a meaningful dialogue on the innovative and diversified approaches for educational progress, business development, and individual economic advancement. These projects brought to mind the collaboration by the pharmaceutical industry, NGOs, and the public sector in improving women's and children's health in the developing world and the role that we can collectively and individually play.

Patricia Van Arnum


A large part of those efforts center on the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals, a set of eight antipoverty goals, which include specific targets to reduce maternal and child mortality. In support of these efforts, UNICEF and the United Nations Population Fund launched in March the Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children to identify ways for improving the delivery of essential health supplies, including strengthening local production capacities, promoting new technologies, bolstering regulatory frameworks, and enhancing financing mechanisms at the global and local levels. The commission followed the launch by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2010 of the Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health supported by Every Woman Every Child, a global effort to improve the health of women and children.

Pharmaceutical companies also are participating. In September 2011, Merck & Co. launched Merck for Mothers, a 10-year, $500-million initiative with global health partners to advance solutions and raise public- and private-sector engagement for reducing maternal mortality. Last October, the Sanofi Espoir Foundation lent its support for Stand up for African Mothers, an initiative by AMREF, an African public health NGO, which seeks to reduce maternal mortality in Africa by 25% by training 30,000 midwives by 2015. In September 2010, Johnson & Johnson launched a five-year effort aimed at helping 120 million women and children in developing countries on an annual basis through programs focused on maternal and children's health, including mobile health, R&D programs, and safe-birth programs.

The value of such efforts cannot be underestimated as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who spoke at the Women in the World Summit, emphasized. "Nations that invest in women's employment, health, and education are just more likely to have better outcomes. Their children will be healthier and better educated....So this is not just the right thing to do for us, to hold up these women, to support them, to encourage their involvement; this is a strategic imperative." The takeaway from Clinton and other notable women at the summit, such as Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Leymah Gbowee, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls Valerie Jarrett, and former US Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, was clear. "Every one of us needs to be part of the solution," she said."

Patricia Van Arnum is executive editor of Pharmaceutical Technology.