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J&J launches maternal health programme

Johnson & Johnson has launched a five-year programme designed to improve the health of mothers and children in developing countries

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has launched a five-year programme designed to improve the health of mothers and children in developing countries through grants; medicine donations for conditions such as intestinal worms; research and development into new treatments for diseases including HIV and tuberculosis; and measures to improve the safety of childbirth in poor countries.

Called Every Mother, Every Child, the programme is a response to the United Nations' April 2010 call for a renewed effort to achieve the Millennium Development Goals of reducing mortality in women and children by 2015. It is being announced in conjunction with the UN Millennium Development Goals Summit, which begins on September 20 in New York City.

An educational component of J&J's effort will aim to reach women with health and pregnancy information via mobile phones. According to J&J, more than 1.1 billion women in low- and moderate-income countries own mobile phones, and the programme will provide about 15 million expectant and new mothers in six developing countries -- Bangladesh, China, India, Mexico, Nigeria, and South Africa -- with doctor appointment reminders and information on prenatal health. In addition, the women will receive calls from "health mentors" to help monitor their progress.

To improve the safety of childbirth, J&J will extend its current peer education programmes regarding mother-to-child transmission of HIV and will upgrade existing healthcare facilities to accommodate more women at risk of fistulas, the ruptures caused by obstructed labour that can result in incontinence and infections.

The company plans to significantly increase its donations of mebendazole, a treatment for intestinal worms in children, with a goal of donating 200 million doses annually in 30 to 40 countries by 2015. The programme will also include education to help prevent children from becoming reinfected.

In the area of R&D, J&J noted that it is working to develop "the first TB drug with a new mechanism of action in 40 years, antiretrovirals to treat HIV and potentially prevent HIV transmission from pregnant women to their infants, as well as new technologies that may, in the future, prevent the transmission of HIV between adults."

9th September 2010

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