A view from the top

Ageing and mental health are key challenges for the post-Covid future

Johnson & Johnson Executive Chairman Alex Gorsky discusses vaccine production, AI and what healthcare will look like in 2047.

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The next 25 years will see massive changes in the healthcare sector as we work out how to respond to ageing populations, correct the flaws in global public healthcare systems that were revealed by the Covid-19 pandemic and improve our understanding of mental health issues. These were the three big challenges identified by Johnson & Johnson Executive Chairman Alex Gorsky during a conversation with Oxford Saïd Interim Dean Sue Dopson on 9 March 2022.

During the event, part of Oxford Saïd’s Business: the Next 25 Years series, Gorsky described how advances in technology offer hope for developing individualised treatments for the most serious illnesses, including cancer, and how AI can vastly improve how hospitals operate. But, as his account of the processes behind developing the Covid-19 vaccines made clear, effective healthcare is about more than medical science: it is a complex area that draws in public policy, long-term investment and careful decision-making around different sets of trade-offs.

Elaborating on the sector’s future challenges, he pointed out the ‘good news’ that people across the world are living longer, and mostly living better lives. But ‘the longer you live, the more you're going to consume healthcare,’ he said, and that will have substantial economic consequences, especially in parts of the world where investment in healthcare is currently only about 4 or 5 per cent of GDP. 

The early days of Covid-19 showed the importance of strengthening public healthcare, and particularly in investing in preventative measures rather than lurching from crisis to crisis, he added: ‘I think we've all found that making those smart sound investments, not only focusing maniacally on efficiency and effectiveness but on resiliency and durability and sustainability is going to be really, really important.’

Finally, he observed that mental health was still not well understood, but that the impact of mental health challenges ‘on society and on productivity, on happiness, on engagement, on stability in society’ means that it is an area in which we urgently need to make progress