Despite the United Nations Millennium Development Goal to reduce maternal deaths by three-quarters, the world continues to lose about 1,000 mothers a day. Most die from hemorrhage, high blood pressure, and other preventable complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Merck for Mothers, a 10-year, $500 million initiative launched last fall by the pharmaceutical giant, aims to improve the odds for vulnerable women around the globe.

“We want to bend that curve back to where it needs to...

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