SMC’s Program Operations are implemented for the purpose of achieving social good in line with SMCs Mission. They are supported through grants from donors, private sector organizations and surplus revenues from company’s Business operations. SMC has identified the following broad ‘Areas of Work’ to achieve social good:
SMC has been addressing the issue of rapid population growth since its journey as a Family Planning Social Marketing Project in early 70s. Taking up the challenge of promoting family planning was not an easy task in those days. In the face of strong socio-cultural barriers, SMC ventured out with mass-level promotion and sales of contraceptives. Initially it started with two non-clinical contraceptives – Raja condom and Maya oral pill. Following country-wide distribution, extensive mass media promotion and IEC activities – Raja and Maya became generic names for condoms and oral contraceptive pills. Over the decades, SMC has introduced 13 more contraceptive brands in 4 categories, namely condoms, oral contraceptive pills, long acting reversible contraceptives and injectables.
Today, the company is regarded as an integral part of GOB’s national health and family planning program for being instrumental in the remarkable success of this program. According to the most recent Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey (BDHS), SMC’s marketed contraceptives now represent 30.4% of national use.
Approximately 70% of births in Bangladesh occur at home, according to the 2011 BDHS. To reduce infection rates during home deliveries where delivery at the facility level is not possible, SMC launched a Safe Delivery Kit, branded as “Safety Kit” in 2008. These kits contain a sterile surgical blade to cut the umbilical cord, a navel clip, cotton, thread, a plastic sheet and an antiseptic soap to help reduce the risk of infection for the mother and the baby during delivery. The product is sold through pharmacy outlets and NGOs at a very affordable price and promoted through training of birth attendants, community level group meetings, community sales agents and other below-the-line and above-the-line media.
SMC also delivers health messages to pregnant women and their close relatives on healthy pregnancy, immunization and importance on proper nutrition during pregnancy and following delivery. These messages are disseminated through blue star service providers, community-based group meetings, TBAs and IPC materials.
Child Health and Nutrition
SMC addresses some of the most serious threats to children under five (CU5) in Bangladesh. It initiated the Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT) program in 1985 to reduce child mortality and morbidity due to diarrhea-related dehydration. Under the program, SMC has been using innovative local and mass media to raise awareness on the effective use of ORS. It also launched marketing and distribution of its own pre-packaged Oral Rehydration Salt (ORS) in the brand name ORSaline-N through the private sector network. Following launch, SMC has not only sold millions of ORSaline-N but also grew the ORS market by attracting many other brands to enter. This has resulted in wide scale availability and extensive use of ORS saving millions of lives, especially of children, from diarrhea.
A second product, SMC Zinc which is a dispersible tablet version of Zinc was introduced by SMC in 2008. Zinc has been proven to be effective in reducing the length and severity of diarrhea episodes among Children under five.
Under-nutrition is another serious threat to physical and mental growth of Bangladeshi children, particularly among infants, who belong to low-income households. Malnutrition leads to Iron Deficiency Anemia (IDA) among many children in the country. To address this issue, in particular, childhood Iron Deficiency Anemia (IDA), SMC began distributing a micronutrient powder under the brand name MoniMix in May 2008. The product contains five micronutrients essential for proper growth that include Iron, Zinc, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Folic Acid. MoniMix is being promoted through strong medical detailing to providers and distributed through the pharmacy outlets and NGOs by SMC's own sales force. For demand creation at consumers end, it is also promoted through mass media. The product is manufactured locally and very nominally priced.
Adolescent Health and Hygiene
SMC has been working in the field of adolescent health and hygiene to foster healthy behavior among semi-urban and rural youth and discourage practices that are risky to their health and wellbeing. Under the MIH project, SMC has been conducting health message sessions and quiz competitions through the implementing partners. In these sessions and events, students receive messages on family planning, birth spacing and harmful effects of drug and smoking. To promote hygienic behavior during menstruation and reduce the risk of reproductive tract infections, female students are highly encouraged in these sessions to use sanitary napkins.
SMC however, realized that lack of affordability prevents girls in the low income group from using sanitary napkins. To minimize this gap between need and affordability and to complement health messages on the use of sanitary napkins, SMC introduced a low-priced high quality sanitary napkin in the market in September 2013 in the brand name Joya. It was an effort to grow the market for sanitary napkins by especially targeting non-users who rely on the unhygienic practice of using cloth to absorb menstrual flow.
STI/HIV/AIDS Detection & Prevention
In 1995, SMC started an HIV/AIDS and STI Prevention Program with funding from USAID. It began with a communication program to promote HIV/AIDS prevention, which included awareness creation, community sensitization, advocacy, condom promotion and sales, and development of IEC/BCC materials. The current phase of the program, which started in October 2009, is being implemented with funding from USAID and in partnership with FHI360. This program called “Modhumita” aims at keeping HIV prevalence rate at a low level by providing high-quality services to the general population, especially clients of sex workers.
Modhumita offers services through 10 service centers located at Tejgeon,Tongi, Mymensingh, Rajshahi, Hili, Benapole, Khulna, Sylhet, Barisal and Chittagong. These areas are considered as high risk areas. The centers offer Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) for the diagnosis of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), TB diagnosis,, family planning counseling and services , blood grouping and community awareness on HIV/AIDS, STI, TB and FP related issues. Under the partnership, SMC also provides support to FHI in the procurement of condoms, lubricating gel and their distribution through the network of Modhumita Health Centers. The program, in collaboration with International Organization for Migration (IOM), implements special activities for the migrant population of the country. In addition, the program also works with people in uniform including Police, Ansar, VDP and BGB personnel to raise their awareness and increase the utilization of services.
Tuberculosis Diagnosis and Referral
SMC has been implementing a TB Program with funding from USAID since 2009. Tuberculosis (TB) is a leading cause of death and a major public health problem in developing countries like Bangladesh. Many TB cases remain undiagnosed due to lack of awareness of symptoms and inadequate facilities for diagnosis and treatment. Considering the seriousness of the situation, SMC has been conducting awareness-building activities among the targeted communities and healthcare providers throughout the country. The objective of these activities is to increase TB case detection and treatment completion among population in general. Activities include identification of suspected cases, referral and follow-up.
SMC also endeavors to create a bridge between general population, private practitioners, the National TB Control Program and NGO Service Delivery Centers. To sensitize particularly the high-risk riverine population on TB, SMC has been disseminating messages through floating IEC centers. These consist of motor launches equipped with classroom seating and audio-visual equipments. The Floating IEC centers on motor launches (Nongor Feli Ghate Ghate) ply on small rivers of Barisal and Sylhet Divisions, stopping at settlements along the bank. On-ground teams invite rural inhabitants to visit the Floating IEC Centers and see enter-educative presentations/shows on TB. Through this activity, SMC reaches around 100,000 hard-to-reach people with TB messages in a year.