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Global Public Health
An Asia Pacific Roadmap for Partnership in Mental Health

I recently had the opportunity to attend the fifth annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) High Level Meeting on Health & the Economy in Cebu, Philippines where I joined a panel discussion on mobilizing a cross-sectoral approach to improving health awareness and services delivery that involves government, business and non-government organizations.

Over the last two decades, we have seen an exponential growth in the number of multi-sectoral collaborations and public-private partnerships tackling some of the world’s deadliest infectious diseases, such as HIV, Ebola and Tuberculosis. It was clear from the panel discussion that multi-sectoral approaches are expanding to areas of healthcare previously thought of as sector-siloed, including health awareness, service delivery and system strengthening. Today multi-sectoral approaches have the potential to reconfigure the landscape, driving innovation wherever health-creation opportunities exist, and there is a need for more such cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.

One area in need of urgent attention is mental illness, which imposes a substantial burden on individuals and their loved ones, as well as employers, governments and society as a whole. The economic burden of mental illness is significant and research has shown that these diseases have a high impact on economies through losses in productivity and total care costs.

In 2010, the World Economic Forum estimated the global cost of mental illnesses at US$ 2.5 trillion, with two-thirds in indirect costs. The World Economic Forum has also projected that over the next 20 years, mental illnesses will account for over US$ 16 trillion of the total US$ 47 trillion in total lost output as a result of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

The recently endorsed APEC Roadmap to Promote Mental Wellness in a Healthy Asia Pacific outlines the role of multi-sectoral collaborations in strengthening the regional response, and we commend all those involved for their leadership in addressing such a critical area of unmet need. During the meeting in Cebu I had the opportunity to discuss a number of mental health partnership programs that our Operating Companies have been involved in and to share the experiences of colleagues who have led this important work.

The Roadmap also highlights the need for greater levels of sharing and exchange of ideas, experience and knowhow, and the upcoming launch of a digital regional compendium of innovative collaborative practices in mental health will be an important step forward. My colleagues and I are proud to support this work, and we look forward to many more organizations joining this important partnership initiative.
As a company with a 50-year legacy of developing innovative medicines to treat neurological disorders, we have supported multiple partnerships at the global, regional and country level addressing mental illness. Through the Janssen Asia Pacific Healthy Minds program, we support public-private partnerships and collaborations that strengthen health systems, reduce the societal impact and stigma attached to these diseases, and educate the general public and all those involved in the delivery of care to those living with mental illness. By enhancing medical support, driving cooperation and building capacity, Healthy Minds aims to remove barriers that currently limit access to the best possible care.

The Healthy Minds program provides focus in our commitment to both the medical community and patients and in doing so we hope that it serves as a catalyst for change across the region. It helps us to deliver our vision for mental health in South East Asia and across Asia Pacific more broadly. A future we embrace together with the communities we serve, to ensure a stigma-free life with access to optimal care for all those living with mental illnesses.

Ai Hua Ong is President of One Johnson & Johnson Southeast Asia and is responsible for operating companies across the region. Ai Hua began her career with J&J 24 years ago as a product specialist with Johnson & Johnson Medical Singapore. Since then, she has held a number of leadership roles across different aspects of the business. Ai Hua holds a degree in Microbiology and Biochemistry and an MBA from the National University of Singapore. She is an active volunteer for charitable causes and is chair of J&J’s Asia Pacific Contributions Committee.