October 29th, 2008

Wellness is a Relative State

By Susan Odenthal, Vice President, Corporate Communications, Johnson & Johnson

I’ve been working with the Office of Strategy & Growth since it began its efforts to identify new opportunities for Johnson & Johnson. The good news is that, in a $4 trillion global healthcare market, there is roughly $2.8 trillion dollars of opportunity in areas where we aren’t currently competing. But the bad news is that there is roughly $2.8 trillion dollars of opportunity, and finding those places within it that make sense for Johnson & Johnson takes effort.

So it felt good earlier this week to declare a new space for future growth – wellness and prevention. It’s gratifying to me personally because we – people from within the Office of Strategy & Growth and others “borrowed” from throughout Johnson & Johnson — have worked very hard over the last 10 months to define the opportunity and define a strategy. But mostly, it’s gratifying to me because I have come to appreciate how important the healthcare space is before disease is diagnosed – to individuals, to employers, to payers, to governments – to everyone participating in the struggle to find a way to get efficient healthcare for all the people who need it.

Because the fact is that healthcare is much more efficient before people get sick. Our research tells us that every dollar invested in wellness and prevention returns $5 to $6 in healthcare and productivity savings. There will not likely be a shortage of people with serious illnesses any time soon, and there will always be plenty of room for innovation in pharmaceuticals, devices and diagnostics. But the problem is that there are too many people dealing with chronic disease that could be prevented, usually with lifestyle changes like better diets, more physical activity, and limiting the use of tobacco. Those are the people we want to reach with our wellness and prevention effort.

In our “journey to wellness,” we’ve met a lot of people who might surprise you with their idea of being well. That’s because, as we’ve learned, wellness is defined very personally, and it doesn’t take the absence of illness. Wellness seems to be a synergy between a person’s physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual states.

People have different motivations for working at wellness. We met a young woman who stays fit, active and healthy, who’s trying to help her mom deal with diabetes, and who is working to ensure she’s not destined for the same disease. For some people, wellness is relative. We met a gentle old grandmother who deals with daily aches and pains, and occasional forgetfulness, but who considers herself well because she’s not confined to a wheelchair like some of her fellow churchgoers she tries to help. And, we met a man with diabetes who measures his wellness by how many doctor visits he makes – he once went to the doctor two to six times a week, but now goes only once every four months and considers himself well.

One of the interesting by-products of this “journey” is the conversion of some of my own colleagues into what you might call “wellness evangelists.” We’re all thinking twice about what we eat, and there are a lot more pedometers in place and miles to run before we sleep than there were when we started. I’m hoping the passion is contagious, and that it is something we will see catching on with people who can really benefit from lifestyle changes for the better.

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