02/25/2013 09:43 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

It Takes a Village: Saving Lives by Working Together

Every pregnant girl or woman, wherever she lives, is connected to all of the other mothers-to-be around the world through the hope that their babies will be born strong and healthy. And while their hopes and dreams for their children do not stop there, surely that is where they begin. The sad truth is that for millions of these girls and women, their own survival and that of their unborn babies cannot be taken for granted. In 2011, an estimated 287,000 women did not survive pregnancy or childbirth, and 3 million babies died during their first month of life, most from preventable causes.

There are many organizations taking action in this fight to save the lives of these women and children. Each of us has a role to play in ensuring that new and expectant moms receive the care that they and their families need--regardless of where in the world they live. And while we work to accelerate the speed with which life-saving interventions reach those most in need, we can also acknowledge the progress that is being made.

Six months ago, in a small district hospital in Dedza, Malawi, I met a baby boy. He was bundled in cloth and sleeping soundly on a warming table. The ward nurse told us that this was a lucky little boy. In the first moments after his delivery, he had not begun breathing on his own. His mother, listening for his first cry, thought he was dead. This would not have been an unusual occurrence in her village. Thankfully, a nurse in the delivery room had been trained in neonatal resuscitation. With the help of a simple suction device to clear mucus from the newborn's airways, and a bag-and-mask to manually pump air into his lungs, the nurse resuscitated the baby and he began breathing on his own. When this heroic nurse saved the newborn's life, neither she nor his grateful parents were aware of the partnership that brought the Helping Babies Breathe training to Malawi and Uganda last year.

My company, Johnson & Johnson, is honored to partner with the American Academy of Pediatrics, USAID, and SAVE THE CHILDREN in Helping Babies Breathe, training healthcare workers to intervene when newborns do not reflexively take their first breath of life. This is one of many partnerships through which we focus our collective efforts on saving lives and improving health in places where the need is greatest. We celebrate the changes that have occurred in the global community over the past few years. These changes have opened the door to collaboration with companies already committing their resources and expertise to addressing pressing health issues.

In my opinion, this shift was catalyzed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon's call-to-action for a renewed global effort to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. The April 2010 call-to-action went beyond governments and civil society, beyond the thousands of community-based organizations that work to meet needs in low-resource settings. It was a far-reaching call that encouraged engagement from all sectors. Johnson & Johnson responded with a five-year commitment to improve the health of as many as 120 million women and children each year, in at least fifty countries, by 2015. In the two-and-a-half years since making this pledge we have made significant progress by expanding existing programs and launching new partnerships like the one mentioned above. Our commitment is focused on five key areas: eliminating mother-to-child HIV transmission; making childbirth safer; reaching mothers with life-saving health information through their mobile phones; treating children at-risk for intestinal worms; and increasing research and development for new medicines to treat HIV, Tuberculosis and other conditions.

On International Corporate Philanthropy Day, we highlight the role of the private sector in advancing the health and well-being of women, infants & children. Our company and many others offer more than financial support and product donations. The private sector brings expertise in strategy, innovation, metrics, communications, and even the power of thousands of employees who want to make a difference. Together we can accelerate progress in delivering the MDGs, and at Johnson & Johnson our commitment has never been greater. The world's families expect no less.