Johnson & Johnson Commits to Helping Eradicate Racial, Social Injustice in Health Care

April 27, 2021
Skylar Kenney, Assistant Editor

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) is working to combat systemic racism in health care with its “Race to Health Equality” program. The program was announced by Michael Sneed, executive vice president of global corporate affairs and chief communication officer for J&J, during a presentation at the 2021 National Association of Chain Drug Store Annual Meeting.

“For centuries, Black Americans have been born with shorter life expectancies than White Americans and have been more likely to be living in fair or poor health,” Sneed said. “Despite this readily available knowledge, we've allowed an unjust health care system to persist for far too long. We cannot credibly claim that we believe Black lives matter if our health care system says that they don't. As a company, aiming to change help for humanity over the last year, reversing racial health inequities has ascended as a priority.”

According to Sneed, the health care system has chronically left people of color behind, and the inequities seen throughout the COVID-19 pandemic are only the latest examples. Sneed said that Black, Hispanic, and Native Americans have been dying of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) at nearly or more than twice the rate of White Americans.

“In the wake of last summer’s revived civil rights movement, as an organization, we step back and challenge ourselves to clarify our role in dismantling systemic racism,” Sneed said. “For us, that led to the creation of a new initiative, our Race to Health Equity. Over the course of several months, I convened a task force of leaders and employees at Johnson & Johnson to research, assess, and prioritize where we can best focus our efforts in support of racial and social justice.”

Johnson & Johnson has committed $100 million over 5 years to support this initiative, according to Sneed. The Race to Health Equity initiative has 3 main focuses: creating a people-first culture by cultivating a diverse and inclusive workforce, producing healthier communities by investing in culturally competent community care models to help close the racial mortality gap, and building enduring alliances with their partnership network to combat racial and social health determinants. Sneed also said the company has set a goal to double the number of Black employees serving at the manager levels and above at Johnson & Johnson by 2025.

“We are transforming [human resources] processes to optimally assess, hire, develop, retain, and deploy talent, including guidance around diverse hiring slates and panels,” Sneed said. “And we're also developing a wide variety of internal allyship initiatives to cultivate a culture where everyone belongs and feels that they can bring the best of who they are to our life-saving work.”

In focusing on creating healthier communities, Johnson & Johnson plans to fund scholarships for aspiring Black physicians, nurses and community workers. The company’s Band-Aid brand has partnered with the National Black Nurses Association and the National Student Nurses Association with the stated goal of providing student nurses with financial support scholarships and career opportunities.

In terms of forging alliances to combat health inequity, Sneed said the company’s Tylenol brand has partnered with the National Urban League to launch a pilot program providing resources and safety education to local communities to address hypertension.

“Our goal is to leverage and connect this network to combat racial and social health determinants,” Sneed said. “Chain drug stores are a key member of what we hope will be a diverse coalition focus on this critical social justice issue. We firmly believe there cannot be justice in America until there is justice in health care.”

REFERENCE

Anderson SC, Sneed M, Lindholz C, Meacham J. Business Program II. Presented at: National Association of Chain Drug Stores Annual Meeting 2021; virtual. April 27, 2021.