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Incorporating Healthcare Into CSR Programs

By ChinaCSR.com Editors
Healthcare companies are often thought of as intrinsically socially responsible because their missions are to foster healthy lifestyles. And many companies outside the realm of hospitals and medicine also focus on health initiatives as part of their own corporate citizen stances. But from whatever sector an executive approaches corporate social responsibility within the healthcare industry, a good working relationship with non-governmental organizations and government agencies is essential.

Expanding Role Of Hospitals & Doctors
Making people healthier is a socially responsible pursuit, and pharmaceutical companies like Bayer have used their unique positions to push for better patient care in China. In October 2007, China's Ministry of Health and Bayer HealthCare formally signed an agreement on the strategic partnership program of training ten thousand doctors in China's county level hospitals.

Qi Qingdong, deputy director of the Department of International Cooperation of the Ministry of Health, signed the agreement with Liam Condon, managing director of Bayer HealthCare China. According to the agreement, in the coming five years, Bayer HealthCare will spend RMB20 million to train 10,000 doctors in 11 provinces in the middle and western part of China. In the next five years, the two sides will train more than 10,000 doctors in 332 poor counties in 11 provinces including Gansu, Shaanxi, Jiangxi, Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou, Xinjiang, Tibet, Ningxia, Qinghai and Hainan. And the training will cover many different subjects, such as basic courses, professional courses, public courses, clinical practice, general guidance, internal medicine, surgery, gynaecology, pedology and the technique of medical treatment.

And with all these newly trained doctors, where will they work? At the beginning of 2008, Chindex International signed a loan agreement with Deutsche Investitions und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH of Germany, a development finance institution and member of the KfW banking group, to continue expansion of the company's United Family Hospitals and Clinics network of private hospitals and clinics in China.

The loan agreement provides for US$20 million in debt financing. The loan agreement with DEG will be made directly to joint venture entities, to be established in China and controlled by the company, to undertake the construction, equipping and operation of two new hospitals and a related clinic in China. The loan agreement complements the recent US$50 million investment in the company by J.P. Morgan's principal management investment group and a US$35 million financing package with the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group, to finance the same health care expansion program.

To ensure that medical workers are ethical in their dealing with patients, the Ministry of Health and State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine recently launched "Directions on Establishing Ethics Inspection and Evaluation System for Medical Workers". This is the first time an inspection and evaluation system for medical workers will be nationally implemented in China. The result of the evaluations will be made public and directly connected with promotions, employment and performance-based salaries. The annual evaluation will be divided into three parts: self evaluation, section office evaluation and unit evaluation.

If any medical worker has a poor performance report, he or she will be punished accordingly. Eight types of behavior will be viewed as poor work: asking for money, goods or other profiteering from patients or their families in medical activities; accepting money given by companies who produce medicine, medical equipment, medical consumption goods or salesman of these companies in clinical diagnoses and treatment activities; violating policies of medical services and prices, charging more or charging privately which causes serious results; hiding, faking or destroying medical documents or relative files; careless performance which causes medical accidents or serious medical mistakes; giving fake medical advice or participating in fake medical advertisements or promotions; bad attitude in medical services which causes bad influence on others or serious results in the care of patients; other activity deemed to be serious violations of professional ethics or medical moral and ethics by the audit board.

Raising Funds To Care For the Sick
In November 2007, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation committed US$50 million to work in partnership with the Chinese government and non-governmental organizations to expand HIV prevention efforts. The funding will increase access to HIV prevention programs targeting those most vulnerable to infection, including injection drug users, sex workers, and men who have sex with men.

"By rapidly expanding access to effective HIV prevention, China has an opportunity to prevent a widespread HIV/AIDS epidemic" said Dr. Tachi Yamada, president of the Gates Foundation's Global Health Program. "China's leaders say they are serious about fighting AIDS, and we're pleased to partner with them on these efforts"

Although China's national HIV prevalence is low at less than 0.1% of the total population, infection rates are high among key risk groups. For example, HIV prevalence among injection drug users exceeds 50% in some provinces, and in the past two years there have been substantial increases in HIV infection rates among men who have sex with men. Stigma and discrimination against people with HIV remain major problems in China. For example, the Gates Foundation says a 2005 study by researchers in Yunnan province found that nearly a third of doctors said they would refuse to treat an HIV-positive person.

Of the US$50 million committed, a US$20 million grant will go to the Chinese Ministry of Health. Decisions about specific programs to be supported with this grant will be made by the Office of the State Council AIDS Working Committee. The remaining US$30 million will be used to provide grants to local, national, and international non-governmental organizations. A small team of Gates Foundation staff in Beijing will reportedly administer the funding and provide technical advice and support to the government and NGOs. The foundation's China office is led by Dr. Ray Yip, who was formerly the country director of China for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And then in December 2007, a month after the Gates' announcement, the United Nations Development Programme and the Chang Ai Media Project hosted the launch of three new ambitious HIV awareness public service announcements with commercial media and advertisement sector partners to promote safe sexual practices in China. Featuring Jackie Chan, Pu Cunxin and Peng Liyuan, the PSAs were created by Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon, produced in cooperation with China's Ministry of Health and distribution in association with UNDP. Yang and Lennon won the Oscar for "Best Documentary ñ Short Subject" at the 2006 Academy Awards.

UNDP, through public-private partnerships with China's commercial media and advertisement sector, aims to utilize the market advantage and entry points of these organizations to greatly expand the effectiveness, geographic coverage and sustainability of AIDS awareness and anti-stigma campaigns.

"This public awareness initiative and multi sector partnership with Government, arts, the private sector and the UN, coming together to distribute information about HIV and AIDS demonstrates a new willingness in China address these issues," stated UNDP China Country Director Subinay Nandy. "Furthermore, it shows our collective resolve against the HIV and AIDS epidemic, which is one of the most serious development challenges affecting all of us."

Participating media companies in this campaign include Air Media, Beijing CityTV Media, EPIN Media Holdings; Ltd., Towona Mobile Media, and 56.com. By donating air time on their video advertisement platforms potentially hundreds of millions of people will view these new and innovative PSAs every month throughout 2008. The total estimated value of donated air time is over US$1.5 million.

Local Companies Give A Hand
But the most work being done in the healthcare sector is by Chinese companies, themselves. China Nepstar Chain Drugstore, one of the largest drugstore chains in China, joined with the Shenzhen Charity Federation in January 2008 to launch a significant charitable initiative to raise awareness of women's health issues among low-income working women residents in Guangdong province. The company's contributions included soliciting in-store customer donations and printing and distributing brochures containing health tips for women. The in-store donation period ran from January 18 to March 7, 2008, in over 700 participating China Nepstar outlets in Guangdong.

Jiannong Qian, CEO of China Nepstar, said, "China Nepstar has been engaged in philanthropy since its founding and has organized or participated in many charitable events of this nature. As the largest directly operated drugstore chain with a leading position in the Chinese healthcare industry, we strive to help improve the health of all Chinese people. Our retail outlets prosper from the growth of many neighborhood residential communities and we feel it is our responsibility to give back to the communities and build long- term, mutually beneficial relationships with our customers. We will continue to spearhead charitable initiatives and do our part to promote health and caring among as many people as possible."

The slogan for this initiative was "With a penny donated by you, a working- class sister can better know and protect her own health." The company and the Shenzhen Charity Federation asked customers to donate their small change when they shopped at Nepstar's stores. The over 700 Nepstar stores in Guangdong Province were expected to generate more than 3 million transactions during the 50-day period, and donation proceeds are expected to reach RMB80,000 to RMB100,000.

Nepstar will use the proceeds from donations to print 160,000 to 200,000 copies of women's health brochure and distribute them to factories with a concentration of low-income working women in Shenzhen and Guangzhou on March 8, 2008, International Women's Day. The brochure will contain 20 pages of information on the causes, symptoms, treatment and prevention of common female diseases such as vaginitis and chronic cervicitis, as well as information on early warning signs of breast cancer, birth control, female nutrition, and female psychological health.

The company says it has chosen Guangdong province as the launching pad for its charitable initiative for low-income female workers, as it is estimated that the region accounts for 20% of the 50 million female workers in China and has nearly one-third of China Nepstar's 2,002 outlets, as of December 31, 2007. The company plans to roll out similar events in the Yangtze Delta region and the Bohai Sea Bay region later this year.

Keeping Healthcare Honest
The Chinese government has taken proactive measures in recent months to not only safeguard the medicines ingested by ill patients but also crackdown on companies that cut corners and cause problems in Chinese society.

2008 began with a recall of medicines by American pharmaceutical company Merck. The company announced a recall about one million doses of a vaccine that might have been contaminated, including about 100,000 that are being sold in China. The vaccine was is B type Haemophilus influenza (Hib), a common vaccine mainly used for children. The company said when they were inspecting a factory in Pennsylvania in the United States, they found that one piece of the equipment might have been contaminated by a certain bacterium which may affect the quality of the vaccine produced. Though there is no evidence showing that the vaccine had already been compromised, the company still decided to recall all the relevant products made via that equipment.

A representative from Merck China confirmed that about 100,000 of Haemophilus Type b Conjugate Vaccine with the series code of "J2438? were being sold in China. Merck says it notified the Chinese government departments at various levels, their dealers and the disease control center and were working closely with them on the recall of the vaccine.

The recall was followed by a license revokation for a Shanghai pharmaceutical company. The Shanghai Municipal Drug and Food Administration revoked the Drug Production License of Shanghai Hualian Pharmaceutical Factory, which allegedly sickened over a hundred leukemia patients who took doses of the company's Methotrexate and Cytarabine medicines. In addition, SMDFA confiscated all of the factory's illegal income from the sales of these medicines. And the police detained the managers who were found hiding information when the government was investigating their products. A special work team has been set up to handle compensation for the victims.

In February 2008, the Shanghai Municipal Health Department identified 18 medical institutions that have been involved in hiring illegal medical brokers and have revoked the business licenses from three of them. SMHD says that they sent more than 18000 auditors last year to investigate the medical brokers, punished 181 illegal medical brokers and issued warnings to 15 medical institutions. They revoked the business licenses of three privately-run medical institutions that were suspected of luring patients by hiring medical brokers.

SMHD revoked the business license of Shanghai Hong'an TCM Outpatient Department which was accused of illegal practice; cancelled the license of Department of Gynaecology of Yangguang Hospital that was accused of releasing misleading advertisements; and revoked the business license of the Kangqian Outpatient Department. SMHD says that to purify the medical and health market, they will strengthen their efforts in identifying the illegal medical brokers throughout this year.

The Chinese government fully realizes the importance of healthy citizens in building a harmonious society and it continues to issue new guidelines for the healthcare sector. As the 2008 Beijing Olympics approach, added focus will be on the safety and preparedness of the doctors in China's capital city as they interact with patients from all over the world. Companies too have an obligation and an opportunity to make new healthy initiatives this year as they focus on fair competition and employee wellness.