Moms in India are dying in preventable ways. How are they being saved?

Most deaths resulting from pregnancy-related complications can be prevented. Here's how Merck's doing its part.

For three months, Pennsylvania-based Scott Wright left his regular day job as a global communications expert to work in direct collaboration with Jhpiego, an international nonprofit health organization in India.

"How often do you get to say that you were part of a global initiative to reduce maternal mortality and save ... lives?" he tells us, beaming.


What's the state of maternal health in India?

It's getting better. The number of lives lost to pregnancy-related complications has been reduced by 65% since 1990.

That's great news, right? Impressive results, all around. In less than 25 years, the number of women in India who died from complications due to pregnancy and childbirth has dropped significantly, from 152,000 to 45,000.

A selfie with over 20 nurses during a field visit and interview at a mission hospital, with all enrolled in MNH quality-of-care training. They deliver over 700 babies a month.

Unfortunately, though, that means tens of thousands of women in India still die each year from complications with pregnancy and childbirth.

"Two leading causes [of maternal mortality] are preeclampsia [high blood pressure] and postpartum hemorrhaging [bleeding]," Scott says. "In many cases, the deaths that occur from these conditions are entirely preventable."

There's still a lot more work to be done, and while assistance initiatives like the Janani Suraksha Yojana and Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna have increased access to quality care, there is now a need to reap the benefits by focusing on ensuring that access.

So, how do you begin to address the still-staggering number of deaths?

That's what organizations like Merck (known as MSD outside of the U.S. and Canada) — through its Merck for Mothers initiative — are committed to figuring out.

Merck for Mothers is a 10-year, $500-million commitment to improve maternal health around the world.

Launched in 2011, Merck for Mothers works with more than 75 partners on more than 50 programs to increase access to, and the quality of, maternal health care for women in more than 30 countries, including India, Senegal, Uganda, Zambia, and the United States.

Ambitious? Absolutely.

"You can make a difference, but having a difference that lasts? That's what matters."

Scott was part of the Merck Fellowship for Global Health program (known as the MSD Fellowship for Global Health outside of the U.S. and Canada), where employees have opportunities to share their skills with selected nonprofit organizations around the world, many of which are Merck for Mothers’ partners.

Between 2012 and 2015, 101 fellows like Scott from 16 different countries worked for 27 nonprofit organizations. Their goal? To support meaningful and systematic improvements in health service delivery for people with the greatest needs.

On the flip side, the fellows bring back experiences and insight that can contribute to the company’s success and ability to deliver innovative health solutions to people around the world.

Scott’s work centered on helping to communicate and perform higher quality of care standards for maternal health by private maternity health care providers in India.


Children need their mothers. With the right quality of care training, no woman needs to die giving life.

Why does a focus on private maternity health care matter?

According to the India's National Sample Survey Office, 40-50% of all births occurring within medical institutions in India are happening in the local private sector.

Jhpiego's project involves training private maternity providers on the standards of quality care, and Scott’s work was largely focused on two critical fronts: developing a strategy with private maternity providers to adopt and implement higher standards of care and then to create awareness of and drive education about those standards with patients.

The strategy also involves training nurses to recognize and react to some of the most common causes of maternal mortality.

At the end of their initial three-year pilot with Jhpiego, they realized that nurses are a key factor in reducing maternal mortality.

Training nurses is "meant to implement not just better maternal health, but also safer and healthier pregnancies and births," says Scott.

“You talk to the doctors and they will tell that for every two minutes they get to spend with the patient, nurses are spending about two hours. There is a tremendous opportunity to integrate nurses more.”

Before the training, "not all the nursing staff or paramedic staff are fully qualified [to administer medical care]," Scott explains.

"The nurses, unlike the doctors, aren't always formally trained to deliver maternal care," he says. "They may be technically knowledgeable, but they don't necessarily know the best way how to do it. Once they’re trained in actually delivering care, and I saw it first-hand, there’s an incredible level of excitement because their level of impact and empowerment just skyrocketed."


A mother and her newborn smile in recovery thanks to a complication-free delivery due to maternal and newborn health (MNH) quality-of-care training. No mother should die giving life.

Merck for Mothers' work with global partners is creating real sustainable results.

As of 2015, 4,751 health care workers were trained and the quality of care was improved at 787 facilities in India, reaching more than 467,000 women. It's proof that these partnerships have created an atmosphere of sustainable improvement in India.

Working with local partners, like the Federation of Obstetric and Gynecological Societies of India (FOGSI), the initiative is helping set and maintain standards that can be passed down in training for years to come.

Time will tell whether his work will help reduce the country's rate of maternal mortality, but Wright seems pretty confident.

"That's what it's about," says Scott. "You can make a difference, but having a difference that lasts? That's what matters."

For more information about the work being done by Merck for Mothers, visit their website.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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