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Building Inclusive Economies, Building a Better World

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There is a well-known proverb that says if you want to walk fast, walk alone; but if you want to go far, go together. It is something that I reflected upon a lot this week, while attending the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit in Manila, the Philippines.

The Philippines’ government launched their APEC host year with the ambitious theme of ‘Building Inclusive Economies, Building a Better World.’ The success of this strategy was contingent on ‘involving and integrating the majority of the population in the economic and social mainstream.’ It is an ambition that requires people to be healthy, employed and able to contribute, and to be supported by fully functioning health systems. It also requires people to walk together, and there were plenty of great examples of that this week in Manila.

We have seen much progress across the APEC region in support of this strategy, and the leadership of the Philippines’ government, together with the APEC Health Working Group and Life Sciences Innovation Forum (LSIF), in the development of an APEC Healthy Asia Pacific 2020 Roadmap is commendable.

The Roadmap has the potential to catalyze progress across the region, ensuring greater levels of sustainability and performance within health systems. These improvements are urgently needed if we are to turn the tide on the rising incidence of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) across the region.

Indeed, earlier this year we worked with the Economist Intelligence Unit to sponsor a report looking at how countries in Asia Pacific are responding to the rise of NCDs, including mental illness. Of the health systems evaluated, the report found that none are set up to adequately manage the rise in chronic diseases. This is largely because policies rely on overburdened hospital-based systems that do not prioritize community care.

NCDs lead the health burden in the five countries included in the study: Australia, China, India, Japan and Korea. Further, while communicable diseases are typically associated with developing countries and NCDs with developed ones – 85% of the overall mortality in China came from NCDs in 2010, and in India, a majority of deaths (53%) already come from this group of diseases. Japan, Australia, and Korea moved to an NCD-dominated health burden some time ago.

The report also confirmed that mental illness remains under-recognized and under-resourced. The low prioritization given to mental illness is in large part due to the low mortality compared to other chronic illnesses, and yet these diseases represent one of the largest cost burdens on national health budgets, ranging from 20 – 30%. Globally, mental illness also remains one of the largest drivers of lost productivity.

During the APEC CEO Summit this week we heard that some APEC economies will lose a significant proportion of their GDP from deaths, absenteeism and presenteeism within the next 15 years due to NCDs. The studies from the APEC Business Advisory Council and LSIF warn that NCDs will represent a significant economic burden unless something is done to slow the rate at which people experience disability or premature death; removing their valuable contribution to the workforce.

APEC’s Healthy Asia Pacific 2020 Roadmap calls for people to walk together: a whole-of-government commitment to health as well as multi-sectoral stakeholder engagement; recognizing the increasing responsibility of all sectors coming together to address the rising threat of NCDs and other health challenges. Janssen recognizes that our responsibility goes beyond delivering medical innovation, and that multi-stakeholder collaborations at all stages of disease interception are critical if we are to win the NCD battle.

Janssen stands ready to join hands with those prepared to take on the challenge.

Christoph Glaetzer is Vice President Strategic Marketing & Market Access at Janssen Asia Pacific. Christoph is an economist and health economist by training, with more than 20 years’ experience in the development and implementation of pharmaceutical market access and commercialization strategies. He has worked in local, regional and global positions in Europe, US and Asia, and played a key role in defining Janssen’s engagement and support for emerging healthcare systems

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