Sharon D’Agostino is Vice President, Worldwide Corporate Contributions and Community Relations, at Johnson & Johnson. She and her team, a skilled and passionate group of philanthropy professionals, guide the company's strategic giving priorities. The group's primary focus is on making life-changing, long-term differences in human health by targeting the world's major health-related issues.
- Can you give me a sense of the scope of Johnson & Johnson corporate giving in numbers? How many groups do you work with, roughly, and in how many countries?
- In 2009 our giving totaled $588.1 million, a combination of product donations and cash contributions. We supported nearly 650 community-based programs in more than 50 countries around the world. These programs are initiated from our Corporate center, as well as by Regional Contributions Committees comprised of employees across the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies. Our corporate giving is inspired by and rooted in Our Credo. Our Credo embodies the principles of Johnson & Johnson, including our responsibility to the communities in which we live and work, and to the world community as well.
- How does your corporate contributions strategy leverage Johnson & Johnson core strengths?
- Our philanthropic mission is to make life-changing, long-term differences in human health. Our giving is focused across three areas: saving and improving the lives of women and children; building the skills of people who serve community health needs; and preventing diseases and reducing stigma and disability in underserved communities.
- How do these goals link with your core strengths?
- We believe that the private sector brings a unique set of skills to the challenges faced by NGOs as they address many of the world’s most pressing health care challenges. We strive to be strategic thought partners with the organizations with whom we work, bringing our core strengths in strategic planning, innovation and evaluation to their life- changing work. We recognize the importance of innovation for our partners, and we encourage new thinking, recognizing that not all new approaches will be successful. With a focus on metrics and evaluation, we work with partners to measure results and to make adjustments that achieve intended outcomes.
Johnson & Johnson employees around the world are another core strength that we leverage in our philanthropic work. Our colleagues volunteer their skills and their time to causes in their local communities, supplementing our financial giving with the knowledge and dedication of our people.
- Tell me a little about your company's work with Mitchell Besser's mothers2mothers group in South Africa. How did your team get involved, and how are you helping the initiative grow?
- This is a remarkable program mothers2mothers uses an innovative approach to achieving two core goals in our HIV/AIDS work: to help ensure that children are not born HIV-positive and that mothers do not die of AIDS. For women who do not know their status, this program encourages them to be tested and if they are HIV-positive, expectant mothers receive needed care and treatment. I had the experience of talking to some of these mentor-mothers in a small community in South Africa. It was incredibly moving. You truly recognize the impact of this work when a woman tells you that, because of mothers2mothers, her baby was born HIV- negative. She then becomes a mentor mother, talking to other HIV-positive women and assuring them that they too can take steps to prevent passing the virus on to their babies. I saw how this work replicates itself. Words alone cannot describe the strength of these women as they try to ensure healthier futures for their families.
- mothers2mothers addresses the issue of vertical transmission, but also has a component of economic empowerment because the mentor-mothers receive a small stipend. We know that as women become economically empowered, many positive things happen for them and for their families, including better nutrition and better health overall. We also work closely with mothers2mothers and supported some of their innovation in metrics and data collection, helping them to evaluate and adjust their initiatives based on measurable facts. We are their strategic partners as mothers2mothers continues their critical mission.
- What's another initiative that you'd like to make sure the TEDWomen audience knows about?
- We know that the work we support in fistula is making dramatic differences for women in low resource settings. Obstetric fistula is a condition that is not often discussed, but very often it leaves women ostracized from their families and their communities. One of the most incredible visits that I have made in my role was a visit to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia. We met Dr. Catherine Hamlin, who founded the hospital with her husband, providing the simple surgical procedure that corrects this debilitating condition. To hear women talk about getting their lives back and preparing to rejoin their families and communities, to listen to their excitement about "living and working again," this was an experience that I will never, ever forget. Each woman tells her story and shares her dreams in a unique way, but every story is compelling and inspiring.
- Another important and exciting area for Johnson & Johnson is our mobile health initiative. We have the goal of reaching 20 million expectant and new mothers with frequent health messages delivered via their mobile phones, even in remote areas where health services are limited. This initiative is an outgrowth of the Text4Baby program in the U.S., done in partnership with the National Coalition of Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies and many government agencies. The Text4Baby program reaches underserved mothers and babies in the U.S. with simple health information delivered during pregnancy and throughout the baby's first year. Building on this model, we believe that we can make an impact in low-resource countries where the need is very high and the opportunity for impact is great.
- Is there a personal story that guides you in your work -- a mentor or a memory from your own life that helps give you direction?
- I would have to say that in all things, my parents are my inspiration. I often think back to my childhood in a small town. My parents didn't have a lot of money and they certainly didn't have much to spare, but they always found a way to help others and they encouraged my brother and I to do the same. Whether in our extended family or in our community, my parents taught us that sharing was important. Today, I am honored to share the spirit of Johnson & Johnson with others around the world.