5 Ways Johnson & Johnson Supports Health and Wellness in the African-American Community

In honor of Black History Month, learn how Johnson & Johnson has made it a mission to help address disparities in healthcare.

Johnson & Johnson partners with DoSomething.org on college bone marrow drives through Be the Match. JOHNSON & JOHNSON

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(Originally published on JnJ.com)

Campaigns to increase bone marrow registration. Leadership training for nurses. A push for diversity in clinical trials. These are just a few of the ways that Johnson & Johnson is striving to help transform the health of African-Americans and other minorities.

And the need for that transformation is great.

"The African-American community is disproportionately affected by a number of health concerns, such as diabetesprostate cancer, lupus and preterm births," explains Wanda Bryant Hope, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Johnson & Johnson.

"Raising awareness of these conditions and what individuals can do to manage them is critical—and we must do this in a way that is relevant for the community."

Johnson & Johnson's commitment to helping communities in need is actually woven into the fabric of its company Credo—a mission statement that highlights its responsibilities to the patients, doctors and customers who use its products; its own employees; and the communities it serves.

For Black History Month, we're spotlighting how the company has honored that Credo mission to help African-American communities throughout the United States.

1. Partnering With the Black AIDS Institute to Help Reduce HIV Infections

Access to healthcare and important information about diseases and treatments varies greatly throughout the United States—including places where a large number of African-Americans call home.

"That's why our efforts with medical professionals are just as important as our patient-focused efforts," says Hope.

One example of this is the work Johnson & Johnson has been doing with the Black AIDS Institute to help reduce the increasing rates of HIV infections among African-Americans.

According to a recent study conducted by the Institute, many community workers responsible for supporting those most at risk for HIV aren't as well-versed in the latest science, and sometimes even basic knowledge, about the disease. So Johnson & Johnson—a partner on the study—is working with the Institute to help develop strategies for providing better education to people on the front lines of HIV care.

For more than a decade, Janssen Therapeutics, part of the Johnson & Johnson family of companies, has also awarded grants to local organizations that are helping to advance access to quality care, including those living in the South and other rural areas of the country.

2. Boosting Bone Marrow Donor Registration Through DoSomething.org

If you have a disease that requires a bone marrow or cord blood transplant for treatment, finding the right genetic match for a donation is crucial—and ethnic background plays a big factor in locating that ideal match.

The African-American community is particularly underrepresented in the National Marrow Donor Program registry—and African-American patients have the lowest chance among all ethnic groups of finding a bone marrow donor. So for people with a life-threatening blood condition, like sickle cell disease or blood cancer, a potential match may be even more out of reach.

To help narrow that match gap, Johnson & Johnson partnered with DoSomething.orgthrough their Give a Spit About Cancer campaign with Be The Match to educate young people about the need for diverse donors. The result: almost 90,000 people signed up to be part of the campaign, and more than 2,500 ultimately joined the registry by providing a cheek swab to be analyzed in a lab for specific proteins critical for a successful transplant.

Want to register? Head to Give a Spit to learn more about the upcoming 2018 campaign.

3. Providing Free Eye Evaluations Together With the National Urban League

For the past seven years, Johnson & Johnson Vision has offered vision evaluations at the National Urban League (NUL) annual conference. Each year, hundreds of attendees, who may not have otherwise had the opportunity, can meet with vision experts to get eye screenings that include glaucoma testing and a high-tech retina scan.

The goal: educate more people about eye health and help diagnose any eye or systemic health issues people may be having without even realizing it, such as complications from diabetes or high blood pressure—two health conditions that are prevalent in the African-American community.

 4. Elevating Nursing Through the Johnson & Johnson Campaign for Nursing

For the past 16 years, Johnson & Johnson has worked to help advance the nursing profession through its Campaign for Nursing and a variety of other programs that provide grants and scholarships to nurses who want to advance their skills.

As part of this program, several initiatives have focused on programs that help benefit nurses within the African-American community, such as the Johnson & Johnson Campaign for Nursing—AACN Minority Nurse Faculty Scholarship.

Since 2008, the company has donated more than $1 million to this graduate student scholarship program, which was created to address the nursing faculty shortage and enhance diversity among nurse educators.

Johnson & Johnson has also provided an additional $1 million to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Future of Nursing Scholars program to help create a more diverse cadre of Ph.D.-prepared nurses.

5. Promoting More Diversity in Clinical Drug Trials

In 2016, 76% of participants in clinical trials were white. African-Americans, who represent more than 12% of the U.S. population, made up only 5% of study subjects.

This lack of diversity can diminish the effectiveness of certain types of treatment—especially if that treatment is for a condition that disproportionately impacts the excluded group.

That's why the Janssen Research & Development Leadership Chapter of the African-American Leadership Council (AALC) is working to increase the number of minorities who participate in clinical trials through outreach among Johnson & Johnson employees, information booths at national conferences like the NUL and speaking engagements sponsored by The Henrietta Lacks Foundation.

Homer Adams III, a Translational Research Scientist at Janssen Oncology, part of the Johnson & Johnson family of companies, has been spearheading much of this effort. He believes that this work will not only help improve the overall effectiveness of medications, but also the quality of his own research.

"I work on multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer that has a higher prevalence among people of African descent," he says. "Understanding why a drug does—or does not—work for African-Americans is critically important to helping treat many of the people who are affected."

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"Mental illness is the single biggest cause of disability worldwide," said Craig Kramer, a panelist at the event and Chair of Johnson & Johnson's Global Campaign on Mental Health. "One out of four people will have a clinically diagnosable mental illness at some point in their lives," he continued. Another 20 to 25% of the population will be caregivers to loved ones with a mental illness.

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6 KEY TAKEAWAYS ON MENTAL HEALTH IN THE WORKPLACE:

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  2. Tell stories. "Nothing is more activating of empathy than for people to share their powerful stories," said Dr. Ronald Copeland, NOD Board member and Senior Vice President of National Diversity and Inclusion Strategy and Policy and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer for Kaiser Permanente. Copeland's organization partners with the renowned nonprofit, Story Corps, to capture the stories of Kaiser Permanente employees, and also provides a platform on the company intranet for employees to communicate in a safe space. Both Craig Kramer and Lori Golden also shared examples of how their companies provide opportunities to share their stories and "start the conversation, break the silence," as Kramer put it.
  3. Model from the top. Carol Glazer received a standing ovation at the luncheon for her account of her own experiences with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This type of executive-level modeling sends a powerful message that a company is committed to improving mental health for all employees. Lori Golden shared how EY had experienced great success with a program where top-level managers host office-specific events and share stories of mental illness or addiction that they are personally connected to – either about their colleagues or loved ones or, in a surprisingly high number of instances, about themselves. Senior leadership setting the example conveys that this is a forum in which employees can feel comfortable sharing.
  4. Communicate peer-to-peer. "We all know that there's greater trust of our own peers than there is of the organization," said Lori Golden. So to build trust, EY "took it to the grass roots," creating formal opportunities for employees to have conversations about mental health and asking other ERGs to co-sponsor these events. Craig Kramer also noted that Johnson & Johnson had simply folded mental health issues into their global disability ERGs, eventually building the world's second-largest mental health ERG by piggy-backing on existing infrastructure and leveraging existing connections.
  5. Be flexible. Accommodating [the fact that people live busy, complex lives] gets you better buy-in…and keeps production pretty high," suggested Dr. Copeland. A representative from one Council company concurred, explaining how their company has recently instituted a new policy of paid time off for caregivers on top of federally-funded leave. "Being in a culture in which we measure what you produce and not whether you show up in person all day, every day, and where if you can't be there, you negotiate how the deliverables will get done and in what time frame…is immensely helpful to people who themselves have mental illness issues or addiction or are caring for those who do and may need some flexibility," summarized Lori Golden.
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