September 20th, 2011
Harnessing Mobile Technology to Communicate About Noncommunicable Disease
On Monday, the United Nations kicked off a high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (NCD), during which governments, organizations, industry and others convened to discuss solutions to chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease and other conditions — commonly referred to as NCDs.
The toll these diseases take is staggering, According to the World Health Organization, NCDs represent approximately 60% of the global burden of disease, and nearly half of all deaths, with a projected cost of treatment over the next two decades estimated at $47 trillion. Further, nearly 80% of these deaths occur in low and middle-income countries.
Behaviors such as tobacco and alcohol use, unhealthy diets and limited physical activity are among the factors contributing to the rise in NCDs. In developing counties where NCDs are the most prevalent, systemic factors — such as lack of access to effective health care, limited access to critical, actionable health information, and shortages of skilled health workers – create even more challenges to finding effective approaches to improving health.
Connecting with community-based organizations, participating in multi-sectoral partnerships, seeking ways to build health care capacity and leveraging innovative technology are among the approaches that Johnson & Johnson takes to address the threat of NCDs.
I was particularly excited by an announcement yesterday at an event held by the UN Digital Health Initiative. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), Kathleen Sebelius, announced an exciting set of initiatives put forth by the Text4Health Task Force. As part of a new multi-sector partnership led by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Johnson & Johnson will help to expand the availability of the text messaging based smoking cessation platform, QuitNowTXT, outside of the United States. QuitNowTXT provides messages delivered via cell phone to adult smokers with motivation and encouragement to quit smoking. Other organizations collaborating with HHS on this initiative include the mHealth Alliance (hosted by the United Nations Foundation), the World Medical Association, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and the Center for Global Health at the George Washington University.
By helping expand the availability of QuitNowText, Johnson & Johnson has a unique opportunity to combine the resources and expertise of many groups to bring actionable tobacco cessation information to men and women via mobile, text-based interventions.
I’ve seen firsthand the value of mobile technology for getting health information to those who need it most. Johnson & Johnson took initial steps to harness the power of mobile technology more than a year ago to deliver vital health information to new and expectant mothers through Text4baby and in founding the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA) with USAID. These mobile platforms are amongst the innovations that J&J has developed as we fulfill our commitment to the United Nations Millennium Development Goal of reducing mortality in women in children by 2015, and we are excited by the promise that mobile technology offers to help reduce tobacco use.
Johnson & Johnson is committed to helping reduce preventable diseases by giving people the tools to stay healthy and encouraging healthy lifestyles. The tools proposed today hold great promise, but much remains to be done, and we will need to continue to develop new and innovative ways of addressing the challenges posed by NCDs if we are to overcome them. I will share more about our new efforts later this week.