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Health and Economic Growth at APEC

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From Clifford Holland, Corporate Vice President, Government Affairs and Public Policy, Johnson & Johnson

Today I begin my first day at the 2011 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit, which brings together more than 1,500 business and government leaders from the 21 APEC member economies.  The purpose of the summit is to facilitate economic cooperation and the development of frameworks for trade, investment and regulatory policy in the region. In this global economic climate, there is a sense of urgency as leaders from the APEC countries convene to discuss prospects for recovery and long-term sustainable economic growth. Collaboration among the APEC economies is vital to creating the business environments that fuel growth and innovation. I know that at Johnson & Johnson we share the concerns of these leaders, and look forward to working together to seek solutions.

This week’s meetings will, of course, focus on policies more conducive to business investment, such as those that reduce barriers to trade and level the competitive playing field. However, it is important to note that development in the APEC economies is also tightly linked to the state of a nation’s health, or more specifically, its people’s health. 

Restoring and sustaining growth requires policies that recognize the role of health care as the largest sector of the global – and APEC – economies, and a prime driver of growth. A well-managed health care sector enhances personal well being, creates jobs across a range of businesses, promotes social stability and improves productivity.

Improving health also fuels economic growth by supporting education, building worker productivity, driving savings, reducing disability, and reducing health care costs. It’s well known that countries with higher burdens of disease –infectious or non-communicable – have less robust growth than those with healthier populations. 

Ensuring healthy, productive populations will require significant investments in approaches that have proven returns, such as promoting wellness and healthier lifestyles, screening for early disease detection, enhancing the use of vaccines and reducing hospital acquired infections.  At Johnson & Johnson, we’ve witnessed the returns on the investments made in our own employees -- in the form of improved health and reduced cost.

This is the first year that APEC has incorporated health on the official CEO Summit Agenda and I am especially proud that Johnson & Johnson can take part in engaging with leaders from the APEC economies about the important role that health care plays in improving the lives of their citizens and economic development.

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