Diversity, Equity & Inclusion In Action
Turning Data into Measurable, Viable Results
Johnson & Johnson aspires to help eradicate racial and social injustice as a public health threat by eliminating health inequities for people of color. For this reason, Our Race to Health Equity (ORTHE) was launched with the bold ambition that together, we can create a world where the color of your skin is not a determinant of your access to care, quality of care, or health outcomes. In alignment with Our Credo, commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and legacy of taking on the toughest health challenges, we are turning a moment into a movement to rebuild health care from a diverse perspective by supporting solutions that systemically address racial health equity.
In this post, Neeta Tandon, Vice President, Value & Evidence Scientific Engagement at Janssen Scientific Affairs, LLC, shares the experiences that sparked her passion for research and health equity, how her career has evolved because of her dedication, and what she looks forward to as our ORTHE initiatives progress.
Q: What influenced your career in research and scientific engagement, particularly through a health equity lens?
Neeta: To maximize the value of our innovation, we should go where the unmet need is the greatest—that’s where my passion for health equity comes from. Real-world evidence roles provided me a front-row seat in detecting the significant disparities that exist. As I dug deeper into the health inequity data, I learned that health inequities experienced by Blacks, Asians, and Hispanics lead to increased cost in our health systems. This translates into hundreds of billions of dollars in incremental costs and leads to worse health and premature deaths. It demonstrates that we, as a society, pay more to deliver less care to these communities. I want to ensure that the knowledge I’ve amassed through my research and interactions can be used and shared across Our Race To Health Equity (ORTHE) initiatives.
Q: What does ORTHE mean to you and how does its impact materialize in real life?
Neeta: Understanding the U.S. health system hasn’t always been easy as a first-generation immigrant. I was a graduate student when I had my first child, and my pregnancy experience was challenging. I maneuvered my pregnancy without a gynecologist (I was assigned a primary care intern instead) and was hospitalized for several days after childbirth. I didn’t realize until my second child that I needed a gynecologist to guide me through my pregnancy. I didn’t know how to seek adequate care, and because of that, I didn’t receive the best care during my first pregnancy. I want to ensure that the next generation of vulnerable communities can seek and receive quality care. That is what Our Race to Health Equity is all about—health care for all.
Q: What skills have you learned and cultivated that are useful in driving your work?
Neeta: I am a data scientist. I previously worked on the launch of a new hepatitis C curative treatment and studied the overall adoption and impact of the new innovation. The adoption of the drug was much higher in the commercial market compared to the Medicaid market. There was an obvious difference in how the new drug was able to reach under-resourced populations. I realized that we should study what is happening in disadvantaged communities. Averages from studies do not tell the whole story. An improving average may hide a worsening situation for a subgroup population.
While leading the population health group, I further developed my interest and skills in health equity. In this role, our team shaped the roadmap for evidence generation to support ORTHE. The approach was to detect, understand, and solve health inequities in collaboration with health systems. With Healthier Communities, we are continuing to understand why such disparities exist and shape tools, solutions, and engagements to close those gaps.
Q: In addition to Healthier Communities, what other health equity programs or initiatives are you driving? What are you most excited about?
Neeta: I am also co-leading Health Equity initiatives for the Janssen Medical & Scientific Affairs (MeSA) Council and Janssen ORTHE Scientific Foundation (JOSF). Equitable health care can be created only in collaboration with the world outside J&J. We cannot do it on our own. We need to work together to make it a reality. My mission is to identify external partners who are experts in the health equity area and work with them toward a healthier community. That is why I’m looking forward to seeing the impact of the Advancing Health Equity QuickFire initiatives along with our other external collaborations to discover and promote solutions that can advance the trajectory of equitable health.
We’re driven to make health care accessible to all. Our Race to Health Equity (ORTHE) was launched with the bold ambition that together, we can create a world where the color of your skin is not a determinant of your access to care, quality of care, or health outcomes. We're just getting started.
September 18, 2023