“My 2021 healthcare resolution": 7 Johnson & Johnson leaders share their goals for advancing healthcare and health equity
A potential COVID-19 vaccine. Passionate efforts toward achieving racial and social justice. Smarter, more sustainable product packaging. These are just a few of the resolutions company change makers are aiming to bring to light this year—and they’re already hard at work on them.
A new year typically brings feelings of hope and motivation. And perhaps no year has supercharged these sentiments quite like 2021.
After an unprecedented 2020, people around the world are focused on the promise that this year holds for continued progress in the fight against COVID-19, an acceleration of the critical racial justice work that was spurred last summer, ongoing support of frontline health workers and more.
It’s certainly the case at Johnson & Johnson.
We caught up with seven leaders across the company to hear what their healthcare advancement resolutions are for 2021—and how they and their teams hope to bring those resolutions to fruition this year.
My Resolution: Produce a Safe and Effective COVID-19 Vaccine
One year ago—as COVID-19 began to spread around the world—the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson determined that we could use our existing vaccine platform to develop a potential vaccine candidate for COVID-19. And just nine months later we began a multi-country Phase 3 clinical trial to evaluate the safety and efficacy of Janssen’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate; in December we fully enrolled about 45,000 adult participants.
In my experience as a doctor and scientist over the past 30 years I have found myself on the front lines of several pandemics: HIV, Ebola and now COVID-19. Over the past three decades science and technology have advanced in amazing ways and we now have remarkable tools to help us mobilize a swift and effective response.
And the response to COVID-19 is demonstrating to the world what we can achieve when we muster all our resources and work together. We greatly value the collaboration and support from our scientific partners and global health authorities as our global team of experts work tirelessly on the development of the vaccine and scaling up our production capacity with a goal to deliver a vaccine for Emergency Use Authorization early this year.
We are living in a very painful, but also extraordinary, time. We—everyone from the heroic nurses, doctors and essential workers risking their own health to help others to the scientists working in labs around the world to every individual who is following the guidelines to practice social distancing—are now part of a generation that will talk about how we fought off a pandemic, and how this crisis fundamentally changed the way the world works. And I resolve to keep the momentum and unprecedented progress going in 2021 to help bring this pandemic to an end.”
My Resolution: Save Lives by Promoting Gender and Racial Health Equity
As a global leader in healthcare, Johnson & Johnson has an opportunity and the responsibility to leverage its deep scientific expertise, strategic capabilities and global scale to deliver innovative health solutions to people with unmet needs. This includes our concerted focus on fighting the virus of racism.
Over the last several months, my team and I have been on a comprehensive racial and social justice listening and learning journey, outlining the actions we can take to pursue global opportunities for community impact and to drive critical progress that promotes health equity.
We are focused on a few areas: enhancing patient education and access to innovative technologies and services by ensuring inclusion of diverse surgeons and thought leaders, such as through the Society of Black Academic Surgeons, in the development of novel health technologies for underserved communities; investing in community-based care models to create new external partnerships with medical schools, like Meharry Medical College, societies and associations to address healthcare inequities in underserved communities; and promoting diversity in clinical trials by expanding the network of clinical researchers, investigators and trial sites.
And as a member of health technology company AdvaMed’s Executive Committee and Board of Directors, we have published industry-wide principles on health equity and are engaging in conversations with government representatives, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and other groups to advocate for communities of color.
It’s imperative that we play a leadership role in using our expertise and resources to do everything we can to make a positive impact within and outside of our company walls. I am very excited to accelerate our efforts in 2021 and live into our promise of saving lives by promoting gender and racial health equity.”
My Resolution: Ensure Frontline Health Workers Are More Supported Than Ever Before
Supporting the front line is in our DNA at Johnson & Johnson, so from the start of the pandemic, we collaborated with our global partner network and business sector colleagues across the world to do our part. Guided by our Center for Health Worker Innovation, we deployed $55 million across the company to local and global organizations alike to support urgent needs like PPE, and invested in longer-term solutions to ensure health workers have access to the training, skills to lead and technologies needed to support their communities and themselves.
In 2021, our efforts will not waiver as we continue to solve the challenges facing health workers to improve health for all.
This virus has also illuminated critical challenges: health worker burnout that predated, but has been exacerbated by, the unique stresses of providing care during COVID-19; persistent gender inequity in healthcare leadership that keeps women, dominantly of color, on the sidelines of shaping our sector; and systemic racism, which has perpetuated structures that keep the opportunity to live, let alone live well, out of reach for communities of color and other historically disenfranchised communities.
In 2021 and in the decades beyond, we will continue to #backthefrontline on these and other vital issues facing health workers and health systems. I’m proud of my team and my company for the work we led in 2020, and our commitment to the work ahead.”
My Resolution: Rededicate Myself to the “Prevention, Interception and Cure” Approach to Healthcare
The moment COVID-19 began to spread, the world clamored for a vaccine to prevent us from becoming ill. People didn’t want to be treated for COVID-19—they wanted the healthcare industry to help prevent them from becoming infected in the first place, and societies cheered those efforts.
This spirit of eliminating diseases before they manifest is why Johnson & Johnson created the World Without Disease Accelerator (WWDA) to develop the capabilities and scientific collaborations needed to prevent, intercept and—if worse came to worse—cure serious diseases, rather than manage them chronically.
These tenets, for example, underpin the strategy of our Lung Cancer Initiative (LCI) at Johnson & Johnson, which aims to prevent, intercept and cure lung cancer. For example, the LCI team is looking at how, with the help of a robotic “pulmonoscope,” doctors are able to reach deep into the most remote parts of the lung, aiming to diagnose and treat the potentially most curable early stages of lung cancer.
And last year, the WWDA team demonstrated that it might be possible to intercept type-1 diabetes with a certain medication. The results of the clinical trial were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
So, my major healthcare resolution for 2021 is to rededicate myself to prevention, interception and cure as the compelling, transformational approach to healthcare.
The current pandemic has thrown into stark relief how important it is to address diseases effectively and rapidly, and to be able to prevent or intercept them before they manifest. The healthcare industry’s response to COVID-19 has shown what may be possible if everyone gets behind solving a major threat—when companies, governments, academia, regulators and other stakeholders in healthcare seamlessly work together.”
My Resolution: Shape a New Approach to Equitably Delivering Health Services and Innovations
This outpouring of science, creativity and collaboration presents us with an opportunity to reimagine how we tackle entrenched global health challenges, from the lab to the last mile. In 2021, I want the global health community at every level to ask a critical question: How can we take what we’ve learned from the COVID-19 response to shape a new approach to equitably delivering health services and innovations?
Our Global Public Health team has already begun to do this.
We are supporting the development and implementation of innovations like telehealth and digital tools, which are helping people with drug-resistant tuberculosis and other conditions to continue receiving critical health services during the pandemic, while also reaching a broader population than previously possible.
We are working on new ways to close the last mile of health delivery and bring our COVID-19 vaccine candidate, should it prove safe and effective, to low- and middle-income countries. The lessons learned from this effort will prove invaluable to further expanding equitable global access to the innovations needed to end tuberculosis, HIV, neglected tropical diseases and other illnesses.
This is a pivotal moment in global health. We can and must leverage it to transform care to better serve the world’s most underserved communities.”
My Resolution: Develop Our Products Using Fewer and Smarter Resources
We are committed to developing our products using fewer, smarter resources and aim to reduce our use of virgin plastic and paper around the world.
Last year we launched our first home-compostable cleansing wipe made from 100% plant-based fiber that’s part of the Neutrogena® Skin Balancing cleansing line. This innovation was developed in our labs, and in 2021 we plan to transition all of our makeup-remover wipes to this new material, while simultaneously introducing new recyclable packaging.
For our Aveeno® brand, whose bottles are over 80% recyclable, we will transition to 30% post-consumer recycled plastic (PCR). We anticipate that this program will prevent nearly 2,000 tons of virgin plastic from being used in our bottles. We also plan to increase PCR use across our entire portfolio over the next few years.
In addition, Listerine® is replacing all of its black plastic caps in Europe with clear resin ones to improve recycling quality, and our Johnson’s® brand will remove plastic pumps—due to a metal component, it prevents them from being recycled—from products with less than 500 ml volume in the United States, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
These are some of the many efforts across our business that demonstrate how we are living into our Healthy Lives Mission. By developing our own innovative packaging and harnessing the newest technologies and approaches, we will reach our goal to ensure that all of our brands will have 100% recyclable, reusable or compostable plastic packaging by 2025.
When consumers choose a Johnson & Johnson product, they choose a healthy today and a healthier tomorrow.”
My Resolution: Leverage “Positive Disruption” This Year—and Beyond
Whether they’re battling cancer, tackling an autoimmune disease, facing mental health challenges or managing a serious condition like pulmonary arterial hypertension, people around the world rely on our transformational medicines every day. We know that, so we never stop delivering for our patients and customers.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has taken an enormous toll on individuals, governments and global economies, it has also catapulted us into new and innovative operating models to ensure we’re able to meet our commitments to those we serve. Throughout the year, we rapidly scaled new ways of working—many supported by digital technology—that have proven extremely effective and have also helped increase efficiency.
We’re seeing COVID-19 accelerate this type of “positive disruption” across the healthcare ecosystem. I’m looking forward—in 2021 and beyond—to building on our learnings and expanding many of the innovative solutions we’ve been putting into practice across our business.
For example, in R&D, our scientists are integrating data science in our discovery and early research efforts to identify promising therapies more rapidly. We’re also expanding the use of virtual clinical trials, utilizing digital technologies to monitor trial participants and offering new services, such as home delivery of study medicines. This can help pave the way for clinical trials to be more accessible to patients in the future.
In addition, since the outset of the pandemic, our Janssen commercial teams have scaled comprehensive virtual solutions worldwide to ensure patients and healthcare professionals receive the support they rely on. Using advanced analytics, we’re able to identify the right customers and provide the information they need when making treatment decisions.
This includes engaging customers through integrated, ‘omnichannel’ platforms that help us optimize our interactions in ways they prefer. For example, when launching a new formulation of one of our oncology medicines, we used social media strategies to better reach our targeted audiences, and launched a new platform that provided us with an integrated, coordinated view of our customers’ needs, leveraging real-time insights.
Product launches have also looked very different, requiring innovative approaches like virtual training for healthcare professionals. These types of virtual engagements have enabled us to maintain and strengthen our current relationships and also expand our reach to new customers.
Following the pandemic, we anticipate a greater focus on the importance of individual health and healthy societies, with enhanced focus on infectious diseases and vaccines. And, as we work to develop a robust vaccines business and leverage valuable lessons learned throughout the pandemic, we have an incredible opportunity to lead the way.
I’m excited to build on our momentum in 2021 by expanding our capabilities and building partnerships across the healthcare ecosystem to help create effective solutions with the potential to transform patients’ lives.”