Millwood, VA, March 7, 2014

Marking International Women’s Day, global NGO Project HOPE is highlighting its work to offer comprehensive health care and health education to thousands of women on factory floors in the developing world, in pioneering work that comes as western corporations increasingly look to improve conditions in their supply chain. 

The HealthWorks program, launched last year, enlists support of business giants including Marks and Spencer and Merck and Co., Inc, in Cambodia and Indonesia and other key international brands are expected to join the program, potentially in Latin America.  The program includes family planning, anemia prevention and treatment, maternal health promotion, basic hygiene messages, safe water and nutrition education. 

“With the attention of the world currently on the garment industries after the horrific disaster at a garment factory in Bangladesh last year which claimed over 1,000 lives, and other factory tragedies, there is increasing pressure for companies to adopt socially responsible programs for women working in their supply chain,” said Judith Moore, Senior Advisor for Women’s and Children’s Health at Project HOPE.  

Marks and Spencer, a major retailer, has taken up that challenge, said Moore, and funded Project HOPE to work in seven garment factories in Cambodia, which make clothing for the well-known European retailer.  In just over a year, nearly 14,000 women have received health education and improved services in the factories.  A baseline survey showing that 20 percent of women were anemic and another 20 percent were borderline anemic has now resulted in the factory health staff able to detect anemia and having the laboratory equipment on site to do so, and the factories supplying the iron tablets to treat this condition.  

HealthWorks Cambodia

Moore says that companies are beginning to realize that maintaining the health of their work force is not only a moral imperative but can lead to a more productive work force, with clear returns on investment for the factory in such things as reducing sick time and reducing turnover of staff. 

Separate education sessions are held for women who are pregnant or have just delivered a baby, including screening them for anemia and providing the iron essential to prevent serious life threatening consequences.  Factory health staff are also conducting mass health education sessions focusing on nutrition, clean water and ways to prevent infections such as respiratory infections or HIV/AIDS.  

In Indonesia, a long-time partner of Project HOPE, the global pharmaceutical company, Merck and Co., Inc, funded the HealthWorks program to work in five factories with just under 10,000 women as part of their Merck for Mothers program to address maternal mortality. The baseline surveys underway are already showing very high rates of anemia as well at 35 to 40 percent. The program has received support from the Indonesian Ministry of Health which is offering assistance with activities such as screening for Tuberculosis and follow up treatment and the potential support of midwifery services. 

International Women's Day (IWD) is celebrated each year on March 8.  Inspiring Change is the theme for IWD 2014, and the global IWD movement encourages advocacy for women's advancement on all fronts worldwide and calls for challenging the status quo for women's equality and vigilance inspiring positive change. 

About Project HOPE

Founded in 1958, Project HOPE (Health Opportunities for People Everywhere) is dedicated to providing lasting solutions to health problems with the mission of helping people to help themselves. Identifiable to many by the SS HOPE, the world’s first peacetime hospital ship, Project HOPE now provides medical training and health education, as well as conducts humanitarian assistance programs in more than 35 countries. Follow us on Twitter at projecthopeorg.

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Geraldine Carroll   Tel. 540-257-3746

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