Features, South Africa

Accelerating Advancements in Africa’s Health Systems

As Head of Operations and Partnerships, GPH at J&J, Alma Scott is working to establish an on-the-ground presence in Africa, Latin America and Asia.

Alma Scott - EHN

As Head of Operations and Partnerships, Global Public Health (GPH) at Johnson & Johnson (J&J), Alma Scott is working to establish an on-the-ground presence in Africa and key countries in Latin America and Asia, in order to deliver on the company’s GPH strategy to address infectious disease threats and help the most vulnerable in the world.

This mission is based on J&J’s belief that it is not enough to create a new medicine, vaccine or diagnostic if those life-saving drugs or devices are not affordable or within reach of those who need them most. Scott’s team focuses on addressing challenges in resource poor-settings and finding innovative solutions to overcoming access constraints.

Three of the GPH Africa offices have already been opened in South Africa, Kenya and Ghana, where the company is working with government and other key stakeholders to find solutions to healthcare challenges.

“Collaboration offers the greatest potential impact in the fight against public health challenges and we focus our efforts on building strong partnerships with local health system leaders and entrepreneurs to find important solutions, specifically developed for Africans,” said Scott.

One of the GPH’s biggest programmes to date is their involvement in the DREAMS amplification programme. The programme aims to reduce HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women and is part of the UN commitment to end AIDS by 2030.

In support of this objective, the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and supporting organisations, including J&J, launched DREAMS, which is an ambitious $385 million partnership to reduce HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women in 10 sub-Saharan African countries. The DREAMS programme focuses on these countries as they were found to have the highest rates of new HIV infections, with girls and young women accounting for 74% of these. The goal of DREAMS is to help girls develop into Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe women.

J&J conducted the first round of workshops focused on insight generation with adolescent girls and young women in nine DREAMS countries last year. Feedback from these workshops outlined three main themes in terms of areas which the girls felt needed to be addressed to instil behaviour change and decrease aversion to risky behaviour. These themes were on employment and employability, leadership skills and sexual and reproductive health.

In response to this feedback, J&J has decided to embark on an amplification programme whose primary mission is to empower the youth to take a lead in the fight against the pandemic. This programme was launched in August in Durban where six youth leaders were appointed, following a thorough interview and screening process, to come up with relevant interventions to address the three themes through a peer-to-peer programme. This initiative is in partnership with DREAMS and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Another successful GPH programme is the New Horizons Collaborative – an HIV initiative focused on enhancing access to medicines, building capacity and sharing knowledge. Recipient countries of this programme to date are Kenya, Lesotho, Swaziland, Uganda and Zambia.

As part of the New Horizons Collaborative, Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of J&J donates to national HIV treatment programmes its HIV medicines for children and adolescents who are failing treatment, in accordance with WHO Guidelines on Good Practices. They are also involved in building healthcare worker capacity and bolstering healthcare infrastructure to better serve the needs of adolescents through training, development of tools, leveraging resources and sharing knowledge. The sharing knowledge component involves enhancing data collection, conducting monitoring and evaluation, and sharing best practices with the global health community to improve pediatric HIV health outcomes.

“We believe that the best science and innovation can come from anywhere. We look for and encourage goal-driven and impactful innovation through various investment programmes which we run throughout Africa. These are geared at accelerating advancements in the continent’s health systems for critical global public health challenges such as HIV, TB mental health and others,” said Scott.

“I believe health is wealth because without your health, you have no quality of life. While education, commitment and drive have played an important role in my career, my passion for empowering youth and working with incredible thought leaders and mentors to help heal Africa, one person at a time, is what has defined my time at J&J,” concluded Scott.

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