By: Joy Marini, Director, Corporate Contributions, Johnson & Johnson
Last month, during the week-long Millennium Development Goals Summit in New York, I was fortunate to be able to participate in a number of activities with some of the world’s most compassionate and resourceful global health advocates. All of us gathered to share what we were doing to improve the health of women and children all over the world. I was inspired by the dedication of all participants and the sheer variety and volume of programs and approaches that are going on simultaneously to address these issues.
But with so many groups working on so many initiatives all at the same time, how can we be sure that we are making the most of what each sector has to offer?
One of the events that I attended during MDG Week was hosted by Women Deliver. The unique format encouraged open discussion – each table had a facilitator and a group of participants with diverse backgrounds. Between each short presentation, we would tackle some tough questions. We learned about each other’s work, challenges and new ideas. Although my table included participants from four continents, we discovered that we face similar roadblocks and brainstormed ways to work around them together. The format encouraged us to consider the unique capabilities of various players in global health, and what each can bring to a partnership.
My take-away from this event? We need more opportunities to share our experiences – both the victories and the lessons learned – so we can leverage every partner’s strengths and knowledge.
Johnson & Johnson proudly supports maternal and child health initiatives around the world, on issues like preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV and training midwives in remote areas of developing countries. But the strength of our contributions goes far beyond money – as a corporate partner, we also offer strategic guidance, training opportunities, communications experience and other skills to build the capacity of an organization.
One powerful example is China’s Neonatal Resuscitation Program. This far-reaching initiative was created to train birth attendants across the country to resuscitate newborns who cannot breathe initially on their own – a huge task involving a host of partners. The Johnson & Johnson Pediatric Institute works with the Chinese Ministry of Health to lead the strategy and direct the program implementation; China’s National Center for Women and Children’s Health supervises and evaluates the program; the American Academy of Pediatrics and Chinese healthcare organizations provide technical expertise and professional leadership. To date, the program has reached more than 20,000 hospitals in China, training more than 100,000 health care workers who are now training others to save newborn lives.
But even with a successful partnership, we are constantly learning lessons that can help others. I remember visiting a rural clinic in Inner Mongolia as part of an NRP training trip. While we were excited to see that the clinic had received a new baby warmer and oxygen delivery system, bought with government funds, the equipment had never been turned on because powering it took too much expensive electricity. Meanwhile, the clinic lacked basic resuscitation tools like a bag valve mask, the apparatus that a birth attendant can squeeze to push air into an infant’s lungs. It wasn’t until we visited this remote community that we realized there was a disconnect between providing resources and educating health care providers on how to use them. This lesson has helped us redirect our efforts toward appropriate technology and be more effective in the long run.
With so many exciting and innovative new partnerships and initiatives underway around the world, every sector has a role to play in improving the health of women and children. It is my hope that each of these “newborn” ideas grows strong and healthy under the care and unique expertise of so many partners who, as we do for all children, want to see these programs thrive. Key to this will be sharing what we have learned – our bumps, bruises and successes – so others can learn from our experience and propel our shared work as far as it can go.