As a company whose mission it is to help billions of people around the world live longer, healthier and happier lives, we have long understood the tremendous impact that better health can have on an individual’s life—enabling greater contributions to their family and their work.
But research has also shown the much broader impact that better health can have on global societies, which is why I met recently with a number of stakeholders from across business, government and academic institutions in Washington, D.C., to help launch The Global Initiative on Health and the Economy, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce initiative co-founded by Johnson & Johnson.
As the world’s largest healthcare company, we are proud to be a leader in this initiative to champion good health and good healthcare policies that are vital to advancing economic growth and prosperity.
Why Investing in Health Matters
The health of a nation’s population is increasingly recognized as having an impact on its security and stability, economic growth and socioeconomic status.
According to the World Health Organization, life expectancy has increased from 47 years in 1950 to 69 years in 2010. This increase parallels the greatest period of economic growth in the history of mankind.
Despite such great strides, there is still more work to be done to convince financial and budgetary decision-makers to prioritize and commit adequate resources to health infrastructure and innovation, especially in the developing world.
To that end, the initiative commissioned a report by Professor Bruce Rasmussen, titled Health and the Economy: The Impact of Wellness of Workforce Productivity in Global Markets. A key finding from the report: In the countries studied, the average cost in terms of lost worker productivity as a result of ill health and early retirement due to ill health is 6.5% of GDP—and it’s rising.
To put that in context, the magnitude of the impact in the U.S. in 2015—where the impact is even higher at 8.2% of GDP—is $1.5 trillion.
While the challenges may seem daunting, we are at a moment of tremendous opportunity. There is no better investment than health, which has the opportunity to deliver tremendous returns to individuals, economies and global societies.
Collaborating to Create Solutions
At Johnson & Johnson, we believe that advances in health care can be amplified and accelerated through collaborations with businesses, governments, multinational organizations, philanthropic organizations, patient associations and academia. By working together, our respective platforms and expertise can maximize the social and economic returns on our existing health investments.
Johnson & Johnson has followed this partnership approach by doing everything from working with the Gates Foundation to fight AIDS in Africa to partnering with international governments and such international organizations as the World Health Organization to fight the Ebola virus.
With the new Global Initiative on Health and the Economy, the goal is to work together to develop solutions by using the platform and reach of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to form working groups at the regional, and sometimes even provincial, level in key countries.
And by working with partner business associations on the ground, our hope is to also form teams that include the businesses, academia, civil society and government officials required to respond to the need for health care investment. Health Ministries alone cannot provide the needed response—finance ministries, economy ministries, labor ministries and pension funds must work together to make sure that policies are comprehensive and supportive.
We are at the early stages with our initiative, but we are encouraged by the strong response and interest from our pilot countries—Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia—where stakeholders are coming together to address pressing health care issues.
We are looking forward to working with the Global Initiative on Health and the Economy to provide a forum and a platform for the business community to bring together its expertise and resources to address the problem in a comprehensive way—working together to promote better health and all of the economic and societal benefits that flow from it.
Dominic J. Caruso is Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Johnson & Johnson. He serves as a member of the company’s Executive Committee and has responsibility for financial and investor relations activities, as well as the Company’s procurement organization.