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Healthcare

J&J launches 5-year aid program for women, children

* Effort part of U.N. push to prevent deaths in moms, kids

* Focus will be on new treatments, grants and education

* Company hopes to reach 120 mln women, children a year

CHICAGO, Sept 8 (Reuters) - Johnson & Johnson JNJ.N has pledged grant money, drugs and research funding for new HIV and tuberculosis medications as part of a five-year, private sector effort to improve the health up to 120 million women and children in developing nations each year.

The announcement on Wednesday by the drug, medical device and consumer products company supports the United Nations’ call this year for a renewed push to meet the Millennium Development Goals of preventing premature deaths in women and children by 2015.

“We have a responsibility to contribute to a future in which women and children have the latest knowledge, technology and medicines to support good health,” J&J Chief Executive William Weldon said in a statement.

New Jersey-based J&J did not say how much it was spending on the effort.

The announcement came just weeks before a U.N. summit from Sept. 20 to 22 in New York to urge world leaders to step up the pace in achieving the goals. The program aims to slash poverty, hunger, disease and maternal and child deaths by 2015.

J&J will take advantage of the vast reach of mobile phone technology, with more than 1 billion women in low- and moderate-income countries owning a cell phone.

The company will launch a program called Mobile Health for Mothers, sending free mobile text messages on prenatal health, appointment reminders and phone calls from health coaches to women in China, India, Mexico, Bangladesh, South Africa and Nigeria.

Other moves include:

* A fourfold spending increase on efforts to fight intestinal worms in children, with the hope of donating 200 million doses a year of its intestinal worm treatment mebendazole.

J&J hopes to distribute the drug in 30 to 40 countries by 2015, and the push includes educational efforts to keep children from getting reinfected.

* J&J plans to continue its efforts to develop new drugs for both human immunodeficiency virus or HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and for TB, conditions that hit poor women and children in developing countries especially hard.

* The company plans to expand its education efforts to prevent mothers from passing along HIV to their children and other issues that affect maternal health.

“This is the type of initiative we have called for, and I commend the emphasis on integration of mobile technologies, medicines, new science and prevention,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement. (Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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