Q & A with Michael Sneed, Executive VP & CCO of Johnson & Johnson

Urban Health Today interviewed Michael Sneed, Executive Vice President of Global Corporate Affairs and Chief Communication Officer for Johnson & Johnson, as well as a member of the company’s executive committee. Mr. Sneed was kind enough to answer questions for us regarding Johnson & Johnson’s Racial and Social Injustice initiative. Johnson & Johnson has committed $100 million over the next five years to promote health equity solutions for people of color in the U.S.

Urban Health Today: How did the Johnson & Johnson Foundation conceive of the idea to commit $100 million to address racial and social injustice? Is this a new initiative, or an expansion of an existing initiative?

Michael Sneed: The $100 M financial pledge is a new initiative from Johnson & Johnson, to address the urgent economic, social, and health inequities in communities of color, which have been exacerbated by COVID-19. These systemic health inequities faced by people of color existed long before the pandemic, but COVID-19 has exposed the cracks and fragility of our healthcare systems.

This initiative has three core areas of focus.

      1. The first one is an investment in underserved communities to combat and eliminate health challenges via community care models (e.g.: mobile COVID-19 testing vans, increased access to training, and scholarships for people of color to increase health worker representation). We will also partner with local business leaders in six cities to scale their innovative health solutions that directly address their community’s needs.
      2. The second focus area is to educate and provide resources to close the racial health gap by leveraging our global network at J&J and working with international NGOs, governments, and companies.
      3. The third pillar lies within the walls of J&J as we are committing to having 50% growth of Black talent in manager and above roles.

This is a long-standing commitment from J&J and this financial pledge is just part of our aim to improve these disparities and long-term issues.

UHT: With the potential arrival of a number of COVID-19 vaccines, will your outreach to underserved black and brown patients include vaccine education when the time comes?

MS: Part of our core focus of investing in underserved communities is to increase education and the amount of useful and accessible information on topics related to the pandemic and a potential COVID-19 vaccine.

Through key partnerships with the National Urban League, National Black Nurses Association, and UNIDOS, we can disseminate and be a source of trusted information on COVID-19 symptoms, how to protect yourself, places to receive medical care, and more, for populations that are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

UHT: Can you tell us about your key relationships with partners such as the National Urban League?

MS: We can’t tackle this issue alone and we believe our ability to bring together many organizations to drive significant change is one of our great strengths. We rely on and have great partners, such as our long-standing work with the National Urban League, which focuses on economic empowerment, equality, and social justice.

Another partnership we have is with The Executive Leadership Council to provide scholarships and resources to Black students pursuing careers in STEM or healthcare-related occupations to increase representation in these fields.

An additional partnership related to this initiative includes CareMessage, that provide Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) and community clinics with free access to a COVID-19 message platform that distributes vital information to 3 million Black, Latino, and Native American patients across the country.

UHT: How valuable was the input of your leaders and employees of color in informing your efforts? Did this happen organically?

MS: We’ve spent the past several months bringing leaders and employees of color across our company together to create a broader and more comprehensive plan to combat racial injustice, particularly as it exists within our healthcare system. Their input, time, and feedback from our employees has been invaluable and continues to inform our work with this initiative and beyond.

UHT: Two years from now, how will the success of this initiative be measured by Johnson & Johnson?

MS: We will be providing progress updates through our website and subsequent program announcements. We feel that tracking and measuring our impact is critical to not only allowing us to see the effect of our program’s funding but identifying what’s working well and what could be improved.

UHT: How can Healthcare Professionals help further these initiatives today?

MS: Healthcare professionals are heroes in our eyes and help to further these efforts every day while caring for, and advocating for, the needs of their patients. Through this platform, we will provide healthcare professionals with materials and resources that they may use to help raise awareness of the programs and solutions being offered through key partnerships with organizations such as the American Nursing Association, National Black Nurses Association, and National Association of Hispanic Nurses.

UHT: Thank you so much for your time, Mr. Sneed.

To learn more about Johnson & Johnson’s partnerships, community outreach, and policy work surrounding COVID-19 racial disparities, visit their Caring Section.