Globe and Mail: National Philanthropy Day Feature
Last updated Friday, Nov. 13, 2015 10:32AM EST
Annually for the past nine years, Dominick Shelton has taken a pause from his position as emergency physician at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre to provide voluntary medical care in the rural Jamaican community of Maggotty, St. Elizabeth.
Recently, Dr. Shelton brought along enough steroid inhalers to treat 100 asthma patients. The inhalers were donated by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Canada, through the Special Product Request program of Health Partners International of Canada (HPIC).
“I made the request because asthma medication is very expensive there,” he says. “Even though most medicine is provided by the church-run clinic, many people are too poor to afford additional treatments like inhalers to manage their asthma – so they go without.
“This type of donation is invaluable for providing medical care to people in underprivileged communities. I am grateful I was able to make the connection in Canada to bring help to where it is badly needed.”
This is one example of the benefits of the partnership between GSK and HPIC. “The way that GSK supports us is really the gold standard for corporate philanthropy,” says Linda Campbell, HPIC’s senior director, product planning. For over 20 years, GSK has provided medicine, financial donations and employee volunteer time to support HPIC’s mission to increase access to medicine and improve health in vulnerable communities worldwide.
In some cases, HPIC works with its partner aid agencies in the field to identify specific medication needs and GSK builds in extra capacity in its production runs to produce those products. The company also donates medication for HPIC’s Physician Travel Pack program.
“Canadian health-care practitioners on overseas medical missions bring 50 pounds of medicines packed in two boxes, says Ms. Campbell. “They’re valuable for remote areas because they’re easily transported; we’ve seen them in dugout canoes and on the backs of donkeys. These ‘clinics in a pack’ contain hundreds of treatments.”
In addition, GSK frequently sends groups of employees to help put together the travel packs.
Another key partnership links GSK with Save the Children around a shared mission to tackle some of the leading causes of newborn and childhood deaths in the developing world.
“This innovative partnership combines Save the Children’s child-health expertise and on-the-ground experience with GSK’s resources and knowledge to help save the lives of marginalized children in remote communities worldwide,” says Ylber Kusari, national senior manager, engagement and partnerships, with Save the Children Canada.
Together, GSK and Save the Children are working to develop child-friendly medicines, train health workers and strengthen health systems, widen access to medicines and vaccines, and respond to humanitarian emergencies. They are also jointly advocating for more global action – including by the private sector – to tackle child survival and improve access to health care. Partnership initiatives include a project to reformulate chlorhexidine – a common mouthwash ingredient – into an antiseptic gel for preventing umbilical cord infection.
“The research to develop chlorhexidine gel responds to a serious need. One of the major causes of newborn deaths in poor countries is serious infection at the site of the umbilical stump,” says Mr. Kusari. Employees at GSK frequently do fundraising for Save the Children, and the company sends staff on three- to six-month assignments at Save the Children offices around the world to provide expertise in accounting, marketing and more.
“GSK is a strong supporter of our program to train health workers in remote, hard-to-reach communities,” adds Mr. Kusari. “With GSK’s help, we are building the capacity of local communities to meet the primary health-care needs of their children.”
“In addition to benefiting communities, GSK’s community investments help to boost employee morale and offer employees opportunities to make a contribution where they work and live,” says Alison Pozzobon, director, corporate communications LC, GSK Canada. “At GSK, we share a common vision with our community partners of enhancing health care and doing so in ways that are innovative, sustainable and produce tangible results. We feel privileged to be able to contribute to the realization of their missions as we strive to achieve our own – to help people do more, feel better, live longer.”