Gender, health and racial inequalities tackled by Ferring grant programme

Per Falk, President of Ferring Pharmaceuticals

Forensic analysis of stone age human fertility to better understand why sperm counts are falling, and a project to support safe birth in rural Ethiopia by providing trained midwives and solar power kits, are among 17 winners of a Ferring Pharmaceuticals grant programme.

The wide-ranging programme is designed to tackle inequalities and disparities in reproductive medicine and maternal health, reinforcing Ferring’s ambitious #ProjectFamily Commitment, which supports everyone’s right to build families of every shape and size.

Through collaboration with people, Ferring has outlined how it will develop programs, services, and treatments to address needs in reproductive medicine and maternal health.

Ferring’s #ProjectFamily inspiring lives across the globe

Millions of people are unable to access the care, treatment and support they need to build a family, and so, the grants aim to support projects that focus on delivering better outcomes and solutions at every stage of the reproductive journey, from conception to birth.

Per Falk, President of Ferring Pharmaceuticals made these remarks on the programme.

“At Ferring, we believe in everyone’s right to a family. That is why we are determined to play our part in collaborating to tackle unique challenges faced by people when building families.” 

“The projects are funded by the grant programme aimed to address some of the greatest global gender, health and racial inequalities in reproductive medicine.”

The announcement totals funding of nearly €2.9 million to support 17 projects in 9 countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Uganda, the UK and US.

It includes the 12 inaugural winners of the Racial Equality Grants in Reproductive Medicine and Maternal Health, a dedicated research programme to deepen understanding and drive solutions to tackle racial disparities in reproductive medicine and maternal health.

The programme comprehensively addresses the scope of this issue by funding innovative research proposals in epidemiology as well as basic, clinical, translational, and social sciences.

The programme builds on the success of #ProjectFamily: Safe Birth initiative, a decade-long public-private partnership, which earlier this year introduced a heat-stable formulation to prevent excessive bleeding after childbirth, known as postpartum haemorrhage (PPH).

By seeking to prevent postpartum haemorrhage (PPH), Ferring will support efforts to protect the lives of 20 million women and their families by 2030.

Do grants align to the Ferring commitment:

#1 Learning from patients to improve their treatment and care

Key fact: Cancer treatments can reduce the chances of having a family, so fertility preservation interventions need to happen before treatment starts.

Decisions regarding the potential risk to fertility therefore need to be made with extreme time pressure when the person is also dealing with the new cancer diagnosis. A recent UK survey highlighted problems in accessing fertility preservation for young cancer patients.

Research grant: University of Edinburgh Development Trust and University Court of the University of Edinburgh‘s research project, ‘Supporting Fertility Preservation Treatment Decision-Making’. Primarily to develop fertility preservation patient decision making aids.

This study will build on an existing web-based decision aid created by the research team and will create new tailored resources for different patient groups in a range of languages.

#2 Collaborating to reduce maternal and infant mortality

Key fact: In rural Ethiopia, unreliable power supplies mean that women delivering at night give birth in the dark, preventing midwives from managing complications. Training midwives and providing safer birthing conditions by supplying reliable power is critical to addressing this.

Support grant: Ferring is supporting GreenLamp, an organisation dedicated to improving conditions for mothers and babies in rural Ethiopia and its ‘Ethiopian Maternal Health Community Programme’ through a 5-year holistic model, which will lead to high impact and sustainable improvements in a region of rural Ethiopia with extreme unmet needs.

Key fact: Every year, 70,000 women die from PPH, with the majority of deaths occurring in lower-middle income countries. The majority of deaths could be avoided through preventative approaches, however, this is not always the reality for those living in humanitarian crisis settings, for example conflict regions and public health emergencies.

Research grant:The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) together with Ferring contribute to the evidence regarding the safe introduction of additional resources such as carbetocin for the prevention of PPH in low resource humanitarian context like Uganda and South Sudan.

Both organisations aim to contribute to providing safe birth in these vulnerable settings.

#3 Closing gender and racial inequality gaps in maternal health

Key fact: Around the world, including in high income countries, black women and women of colour are more likely to die from complications during pregnancy and childbirth than white women. Startling racial disparities also exist in fertility treatment.

Studies in the US suggest that black women may be twice to have fertility problems but are far less likely to seek or receive treatment that could help them to build their families.

Furthermore, in the UK, minority ethnic groups undergoing fertility treatment are less likely to have a baby, with black couples having the lowest chance of successful treatment.

Research grant: The Ferring Innovation Grants Programme for Racial Equality in Reproductive Medicine and Maternal Health, aims to drive solutions to tackle theses racial disparities, including maternal mortality, in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), pregnancy and postpartum outcomes.

#4 Working together to win hearts and minds

Key fact: The average number of children a woman gives birth to is falling. If the number falls below approximately 2.1, then the size of the population starts to decrease.

In 1950, women were having an average of 4.7 children in their lifetime.

Research showed the global fertility rate nearly halved to 2.4 in 2017 – and projections indicate it will fall below 1.7 by 2100. In line with this, the number of babies born globally as a result of IVF increased from under one million in 2007, to over two million in 2012.

Research grant: International Federation of Fertility Societies (IFFS) and its research project, ‘Global decreasing fecundity trends: Society changes and implications, fertility awareness and access to infertility care’ aims to gradually amend the dwindling global fertility rate.

Research grant: Globe institute at the University of Copenhagen and Copenhagen University Hospital – Rigshospitalet research project, ‘Understanding the reproduction paradigm of humankind in the Anthropocene (‘Ancient Reproduction’).’

The project aims to map the evolutionary history of reproductive dysfunction by evaluating changes in environmental pollution and associated biological responses over time.