Race, ethnicity and skin color should never dictate who stays healthy or gets sick. Yet Black and Hispanic people in the United States have long been disproportionately impacted by a wide range of diseases—including stroke, heart and kidney disease, HIV, mental illness and cancer—due to healthcare inequities caused by centuries of systemic racism.
This devastating reality has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, Black people in the U.S. experience the highest COVID-19 mortality rates nationwide. And even before the pandemic, it was estimated that over 74,000 excess deaths in the U.S. could be prevented each year if the mortality gap between Blacks and whites in this country could be eliminated.
While no one organization alone can resolve these deeply rooted inequities, as a global healthcare leader, Johnson & Johnson is determined to help lead the way in the quest to put better health within reach—for everyone.
To that end, the company is launching the Johnson & Johnson Health Equity Innovation Challenge to find and fast-track innovations that have the potential to diminish those historical disparities. The Challenge follows Our Race to Health Equity, through which Johnson & Johnson announced in late 2020 that it was committing $100 million over the next five years to invest in and promote health equity solutions for Black people and other people of color in the U.S.
“At Johnson & Johnson, we are committed to combating racism in whatever form it takes. In partnership with the communities where we work and live, we will continue our aim to help find solutions that lower barriers to health and equality,” says, Vice President of Innovation, Global Health and Policy Communication at Johnson & Johnson.
Seeking Healthcare Solutions for Communities, By Communities
Launching on September 28 in six cities—Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York City and Philadelphia—the Johnson & Johnson Health Equity Innovation Challenge invites local innovators, entrepreneurs and organizations to submit their ideas on how to prevent and treat illnesses disproportionately affecting Black and Hispanic communities, enhance access to healthcare, advocate for trusted community-based healthcare and create more diversity in science.
Applicants will be reviewed by an independent panel of experts with backgrounds in public health, healthcare delivery, advocacy, entrepreneurship and academia, including Uché Blackstock, M.D., Founder and CEO, Advancing Health Equity, and Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D., University Professor and Chief Executive Officer of the Connecticut Convergence Institute for Translation in Regenerative Engineering at the University of Connecticut. By early 2022, Johnson & Johnson will grant $1,000,000 in total funding to its final awardees.
Awardees will also have the opportunity to be mentored by leaders both within and outside of Johnson & Johnson and will gain access to the Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS ecosystem, which provides educational programming and networking opportunities to healthcare startups so that they can connect with investors and experts who research and develop treatments for diseases.
As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.” Unfortunately, this inequality also reflects a 400-year reality that the U.S. as a nation has failed to change. The time to do so is now, by listening to the communities that have borne the brunt of this inequity—and empowering and supporting them in finally narrowing it.