Turning science into caring for community’s health

By Thu Le, TN News

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Ms. Melissa Brotz, Abbott’s Divisional Vice President, Head of Public Affairs
With over a century of pursuing science and innovation in healthcare, and 20 years of local experience in Vietnam, Abbott maintains its leading position in adult nutrition worldwide, ranks among the top in diagnostic products, particularly in blood screening, immunoassay and infectious disease molecular tests.
In medical devices, Abbott's innovative solutions to prevent the aging-associated diseases such as cardiovascular disease sustain its top position. Recently, the company has been named as World’s Most Admired Company for 30 consecutive years by Fortune magazine, as well as awarded one of 100 Best Places to Work in Vietnam.
Thanh Nien reporter had the opportunity to discuss with Ms. Melissa Brotz, Abbott’s Divisional Vice President, Head of Public Affairs on her recent visit to Vietnam about the company’s development strategy in emerging markets including our country.
What is Abbott’s strategy for emerging markets?
Abbott has a strong presence in emerging markets, with 40 percent of our sales today coming from these countries.
During the past decade, emerging economies grew at more than three times the rate of the developed world and in the next five years, emerging economies are expected to grow at a pace of more than twice that of developed markets.
This will be driven largely by high and increasing birth rates, a growing middle class and an aging population, in addition to a high labor participation rate and improving labor productivity.
And we believe as we benefit from that growth, we’re also contributing to it by helping to create healthier societies and helping people achieve their potential. We are continually looking to find ways to deliver care effectively while improving access to high quality products. We have invested strategically in building our presence in emerging countries and operating as a local company in each country. We have built research and manufacturing capacity in countries such as China, India and Singapore to introduce locally–focused products that meet the needs of consumers.
We also build strong distribution systems and forge local partnerships to broaden our offerings. For example, we have continued to invest in Vietnam through the acquisition with 3A Nutrition in 2012, demonstrating our long-term commitment to the country.
Vietnam is an important contributor to the total growth of emerging markets for the company. Abbott has been in Vietnam since 1995 and we have grown with the country, both benefiting from and contributing to Vietnam’s successful growth. We are proud that we have contributed to a healthier Vietnam and proud of the work of our very talented Vietnamese team.
As an expert in media and communication, what are your views/visions to promote reputation of a global company in emerging markets?
At Abbott, there is no difference in the way that we work to build our reputation – whether in a developed market or emerging market. We believe our actions speak for us, and we work every day to address the needs and health challenges that consumers and health care professionals are facing. We are a science-based company and we want to ensure consumers know that they can depend on us to bring them products of the highest quality and reliability.
In addition to our products, we are a member of each community in which we operate and we often work with local partners to invest in programs to help advance local healthcare services including initiatives focused on improving nutrition, training health care staff, strengthening health systems, and expanding community education.
According to 2013’s fourth quarter financial report, last year the company invested $1.5 billion in R&D. What has the R&D investment reflected in Sales ratio?
In 2013, we invested nearly $1.5 billion in research and development (R&D) – more than 6 percent of sales – to bring forward new solutions to meet the rapidly changing healthcare needs of people of all ages around the world.
In our nutrition business, where we are market leader in many countries including Vietnam, our investment in R&D has resulted in a five-fold increase in the number of new products launched annually since 2008 and a ten-fold increase in both clinical trials and patent applications. We have also expanded our global R&D footprint in Asia (in places like Singapore, China and India) to ensure our products can meet the local needs and preferences of consumers.
Our ongoing investment in innovation also resulted in the global launches last year of a first-in-class device for the treatment of mitral regurgitation in our vascular business; a new intraocular lens in our medical optics business; and a next-generation automation solution and diagnostic tests for laboratories in our diagnostics business. Our bioresorbable stent, Absorb, has also launched in several key markets globally, including Vietnam, where it was approved by the Ministry of Health in November 2012.
We also continue to advance a number of key programs in our diversified pipeline, including beginning enrollment for a clinical trial in Europe for our next-generation glucose monitoring technology.
How has this investment helped to improve Abbott’s competitive edge? And how will it impact to people’s health and lives globally?
Yes, we believe our scientific strength and capability is our advantage because sound science is at the heart of all of our products, including our nutritional products which are widely used in Vietnam. Abbott people are driven to innovate new solutions to health challenges, globally and locally, to deliver on our “promise for life.”
We have about 1,800scientists who are working across all of our businesses to apply the latest scientific understanding to develop new solutions to advance people’s health and well-being, with innovative products built on a deep understanding of consumer needs and preferences. We touch people at nearly every stage of their life so we are committed to ensuring the same rigor in our product development and quality across our diagnostics, devices, pharmaceuticals and nutrition businesses.
In Vietnam, since our entry in 1995, many families have chosen us as their nutrition partner in building a healthier life. That trust is important to us. That’s why in June of last year, Vietnam was the first country to launch our product, BoneSure, a bone health nutritional supplement developed in Asia to help meet the needs of Asians, especially women, who often lack adequate calcium in their diets.
In the same year we also launched Ensure Acti M2, a product that helps in maintaining cognitive health and mental sharpness for aging people, as well as Similac with Intelli-Pro, which was developed to meet the needs for infant and child development.
This focus on shaping new methods of care and improving treatment standards has not only helped us maintain leadership in many of the categories in which we compete, but also helped us to create products that have a lasting impact on the health of consumers everywhere.
According to your first Vietnam Citizenship Report launch last year, Abbott has several programs that support critical health issues, strengthen healthcare systems and expand community education on healthcare and nutrition. What are Abbott’s views of social responsibilities?
Social responsibility starts with our business and our expertise. Innovative, responsible and sustainable business plays an important role in building a healthy, thriving society – in Vietnam and around the world.
In Vietnam, we've worked closely with stakeholders to identify local needs, and how we can help meet these needs through our products, our core business operations and in partnerships with others. A few examples:
  • Abbott and its foundation the Abbott Fund have provided more than 190 billion VND (US$9.3 million) in grants and product donations in Vietnam to improve nutrition, provide training for doctors and nurses, and strengthen healthcare.
  • The Abbott Fund Institute of Nutrition Science (AFINS)is the first program bringing together leading organizations to strengthen clinical nutrition within hospitals in Vietnam. Bringing together the National Institute of Nutrition, Bach Mai Hospital, Hanoi Medical University, Boston University School of Medicine and the Abbott Fund, we have trained more than 1,200 health workers on nutrition care, established the first academic programs and national conferences on clinical nutrition; and conducted the first large-scale study of hospital-based nutrition.
  • Last year, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of our partnership to improve the nutritional health of children in rural areas of Vietnam. Working together with AmeriCares and the Giao Diem Humanitarian Foundation, we provided nutritional support with locally grown, healthy foods for 23,000 pre-school children. We also educated teachers and parents about nutrition and healthy foods. As a result of this work, malnutrition rates in these communities dropped significantly, to less than 20 percent – which surpasses the U.N. Millennium Development Goal for malnutrition.

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