Merck for Mothers just launched a three-year, $10 million initiative to tackle maternal mortality in India, where the need is as great as anywhere in the world. Despite recent progress, India still has more maternal deaths than any country in the world – almost a fifth of the global total.

As Merck for Mothers looked closer at the health landscape in India, they learned several important lessons. First, the majority of people in India actually turn to the local private health sector as their first choice of care, because it is easily accessible, attuned to their needs and routines, and perceived to be high quality. In fact, a recent survey found that 92 percent of health care visits among rural households are to private providers, which includes independent doctors, private clinics, pharmacies, and community health workers. (This figure is 70 percent among urban households.) Second, they learned that private health care can be unregulated, expensive, and of variable quality. Third, private maternal health care is often confined to family planning and antenatal care. It less commonly extends to critical services like labor and delivery, when life-saving interventions can be performed in the case of complications.

Among the challenges that exist in private care, they also saw an incredible opportunity. What if there are creative ways of strengthening the care provided by the private sector to reduce maternal mortality? And what if there is a possibility to do this by working alongside the government and NGOs to help relieve the burden on the public health system?

Merck for Mothers in India sets out to confront these challenges head on. They are excited to be partnering with leading organisations, including the Hindustan Latex Family Planning Promotion Trust, Pathfinder International with World Health Partners, and the White Ribbon Alliance with Gram Vaani. These partnerships are using innovative approaches to engage private providers and improve the affordability, accessibility, and quality of the maternal health services they offer. Go to orignal article