The first pre-call started like any other day. We were launching the Johnson & Johnson Pro Bono for Health Equity Program. Working day in and day out in Zoomland can be exhausting and the burnout was beginning to set in. Then fifteen faces came onto the screen bringing their full passion, energy and enthusiasm. Those ninety minutes were a breath of new life that reminded me that our work matters.
We had gathered that day to lay the groundwork for the 12-week initiative, which allows employees from the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies to work directly with US-based Community Health Centers and apply their collective expertise towards creating solutions that combat racial and social determinants of health and, in turn, helping enhance service delivery. According to research, an estimated 83,570 excess deaths each year could be prevented in the United States if the Black-white mortality gap could be eliminated. Born out of the J&J employee engagement Talent for Good strategy and Our Race to Health Equity commitment, the Pro Bono for Health Equity program contributes employees' unique skills as a way to help close the racial mortality gap by investing in culturally competent community care models that create healthy outcomes for people of color.
Developing and working on this program is of personal importance to me as a Hispanic woman, but also as a volunteer EMT, where I see firsthand how social determinants affect the health outcomes within the community I serve. Even within a small city, I notice stark differences between one side of town and the other. In the low-income areas, drug related calls are more prevalent, some patients refuse transport to the hospital because they lack insurance, while others won’t even call the ambulance or go to the doctor for the same reason. This is provided they can afford to take a day off of work because of illness. Then there are immigrant families who face a barrier to care because they don’t speak English and thus can’t communicate their health needs. The list goes on and on.
As @Gulshan Vorobeychik, Finance Compliance Manager at Johnson & Johnson and a Pro Bono for Health Equity program participant, shared “Access to healthcare is a basic human right and should not be dependent on social status or geography. I have a strong desire to contribute my best efforts to eliminate health disparities. This is my personal goal and main reason why I am with Johnson & Johnson. For the exact same reason, I have applied for this program. I feel humbled to have this opportunity to make a direct impact and improve health potential for underserved communities in my country.” It’s with this mantra that we launch our inaugural cohort of 15 J&J employees, many of whom share similar sentiments.
This year we have the opportunity to work with three inspiring Community Health Centers who strive to create a better quality of life for members of their communities. Each has identified a specific capacity need to enhance their services and will be paired with a team of J&J employees who bring relevant experience to tackle the project together:
- Family Health Center (FHC), based in Laurel, MS, gives quality, comprehensive health care services to the medically underserved and uninsured patient population in Southcentral Mississippi. The J&J employee team will develop a roadmap to strengthen the recruitment and retention of high-level Providers, such as MDs and DOs.
- Aunt Martha’s, based in Olympia Fields, IL, is driven by innovation, integration and care coordination. The objective of this J&J employee team is to review Aunt Martha’s existing data collection methods of patient experience and provide recommendations for improvements along the patient journey to yield stronger patient satisfaction.
- Hampton Roads Community Health Center (HRCHC), based in Portsmouth, VA, provides quality care to populations in poverty. Over 12 weeks, the J&J employee team will develop a strategic roadmap for improvements to hypertension preventative telehealth services, including recommendations for measurement and management of hypertension control.
These three community health centers are thinking outside the box and adapting their service delivery to meet changing patient needs. Kenny Martin-Ocasio, Senior Vice President of Community Integration at Aunt Martha’s, touched upon what this collaboration means to his organization, “At Aunt Martha's, we practice a patient-centered approach to care. We are excited to collaborate with J&J to challenge our approach to result in empowering our patients to hold us to a higher standard.”
I don’t recall the origin, but I heard a starfish story many years ago that has always stuck with me. Thousands of starfish were stranded on the sand along a beach. A young child would pick up a starfish, toss it back in the water and repeat this cycle over and over. People watched, amused by what the child was doing. One person approached and said “What are you doing? You can’t save them all. It’s impossible to make a difference.” The child bent down, picked up another starfish and returned it to the water saying, “It made a difference to that one.”
We have a long way yet to go to reach an equitable healthcare system, but we have to start somewhere, even if a task seems insurmountable. Cohort participant and Healthcare Quality Solutions Director at J&J, @LouAnn Uliano, who spent many years in the clinical setting before transitioning to J&J said, “Through this program, I feel empowered to join my colleagues to contribute our collective talent to operationalize and scale our organizational commitment to improving our capacity for global health equity.”
It’s up to all of us to make a difference, big or small, with the talents we’ve been given. Just as our first session reminded me, we know that sometimes it takes that spark from others to ignite our passion to mobilize. Even if we begin with just one person, it matters. Share your story in the comments below and help us gain the momentum needed for lasting change.
About the Johnson & Johnson Employee Engagement Strategy ‘Talent for Good’
The Talent for Good strategy aspires to activate our nearly 140,000 employees from across the globe to grow personally and professionally by applying their time, skills and resources to build healthier communities around the world. From donations to fully immersive assignments with NGO partners, Talent for Good creates opportunities for employees at all stages of their career to play their part in creating positive and meaningful change. Follow #TalentForGood to read other inspiring stories about how J&J employees and partners are collaborating to build a healthier, more equitable world.