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Merck Foundation Grant Expands Project ECHO® in Vietnam and India

KENILWORTH, N.J.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Merck Foundation (Foundation) and the Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) Institute™ at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center announced today that the Foundation has provided a grant of $7 million over five years to support the expansion of Project ECHO ® to improve access to specialty care for complex, chronic conditions, such as: hepatitis C, HIV, tuberculosis, and non-communicable diseases, including diabetes and mental health conditions, in underserved communities in India and Vietnam.

Project ECHO® is a telementoring model that links expert specialists with primary care providers through virtual clinics (teleECHOTM clinics), where the specialists mentor and share their knowledge through case-based learning and guided practice, enabling primary care providers to develop the ability to treat patients with complex conditions within their own communities.

Given the substantial need to improve health care and build health care providers’ capacity throughout India and Vietnam, this project has four central goals:

  • Further develop ECHO superhubs in India to provide training and technical assistance for ECHO projects throughout Asia;
  • Develop and expand ECHO hubs (specialty teams at academic medical centers or other care centers) across India and Vietnam in targeted communities;
  • Work with hubs in India and Vietnam to develop and implement training programs for community health workers to further improve the quality and availability of treatment and care; and
  • Document the impact of the ECHO model™ on improving access to specialty care for patients in rural and underserved areas in India and Vietnam.

“At Merck, we value and support our partners who are experimenting with new health care models and technologies aimed at solving complex health problems,” said Dr. Julie L. Gerberding, chief patient officer, Merck and chief executive officer, Merck Foundation. “Project ECHO® will help to make a meaningful impact on patients living with chronic conditions in India and Vietnam by empowering local providers with the specialized medical knowledge they need.”

“We are incredibly grateful for this generous donation from the Merck Foundation,” said Dr. Sanjeev Arora, creator and director of Project ECHO®. “Strengthening the skills and capabilities of primary care providers in rural or remote settings helps to ensure patients receive the right care at the right place and the right time.”

As part of the initiative, a community health worker program will be developed to further expand access to appropriate care in rural communities. The community health workers will join the more than 3,000 doctors, nurses and community health workers currently enrolled in Project ECHO’s comprehensive disease management programs. To date, more than 110 partners have launched their own ECHO hubs for more than 55 diseases and conditions in more than 20 countries.

About The Merck Foundation

The Merck Foundation is a U.S.-based, private charitable foundation. Established in 1957 by Merck, a global health care leader, the Foundation is funded entirely by the company and is Merck’s chief source of funding support to qualified non-profit charitable organizations. Since its inception, the Merck Foundation has contributed more than $870 million to support important initiatives that address societal needs and are consistent with Merck’s overall mission to help the world be well. For more information, visit www.merckgiving.com.

About the ECHO Institute

The ECHO Institute, based at the University of New Mexico Health Science Center, is a groundbreaking approach to increasing access to specialty care that started in 2003, in New Mexico. ECHO is a lifelong learning and guided practice model that revolutionizes medical education and exponentially increases workforce capacity to provide best-practice specialty care and reduce health disparities. Learn more at echo.unm.edu and on Twitter @ProjectECHO.

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