1. Tell us something we don’t know. (Anything!)
Although Nigeria is a predominantly English-speaking country, Nigerians who immigrate to the US must take a test to prove their fluency (despite this not being a requirement for European countries with fewer English speakers).
2. Which fiction book would you recommend to researchers and innovators in healthcare, and why?
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is the story of a Nigerian immigrant who comes to the US, and it beautifully captures the nuances of humanity that you don’t get from the simple segmentation of populations. The social determinants of health, for example, are useful but only to a point because they can reinforce stereotypes (e.g., about disease burden). By observing behaviors and patterns across groups like Adichie does, you see unlikely pairings and can create more meaningful behavioral subgroups that cut across groups.
3. What are you working on right now that you’re excited about?
Johnson & Johnson has made a commitment to provide 400 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to Africa, and because sub-Saharan Africa has ~1 billion people that means we’ll be providing vaccines that significantly gets us closer to herd Immunity within the region. The provision of these vaccines will greatly narrow disparities and inequities, and shows how for-profit organizations can put aside profits and contribute to humanity. Distributing the coronavirus vaccine across Africa will come with challenges, not only from limited resources and time, but because of vaccine hesitancy that in some ways mirrors the flavor of resistance in the US and in other ways are different. Addressing this hesitancy will take strong behavior science principles including transparency of evidence informing vaccine behavior interventions, accounting for factors across the ecological continuum that influence vaccine behaviors, and applying strong measurement and evaluation methods to test quickly, learn fast and optimize interventions efficiently.
4. Who’s doing something that you admire in healthcare today, and why is it so cool?
Madalina Sucala leads digital health oncology R&D at AstraZeneca, and she is in uncharted space combining behavioral science with artificial intelligence to generate truly adaptive digital innovation. There are few people at this cutting edge of bringing behavioral science to digital innovation, and Madalina’s work shows how we can use technology for better health outcomes, not merely for the sake of technology.
5. What’s the biggest barrier to getting things done in your line of work?
There’s an opportunity for business to have a higher level of evidence and transparency around that evidence. In my job I have the opportunity to prioritize based on the science, but not all organizations embrace this mindset. We need to test, learn, fail and adapt quickly. And it helps a great deal when evidence is prioritized at an organizational level rather than having business strategists pitted against scientists.
6. Imagine you win an award for impacting healthcare. What did you do?
The award would be for addressing a major health issue that benefits the broadest and most diverse population possible, whether its eradicating HIV in Africa, childhood obesity, or cancers tied to risky behaviors like lung cancer from smoking. To win this award, I’d leverage three distinct capabilities: behavioral science to understand the drivers that determine decision-making processes, digital health technologies to address triggers in real-time, and the power of data science to unlock new insights about what works for whom and under what conditions.
7. What advice would you give innovators in healthcare?
We need to go back to the basics. In public health training, you learn to conduct a needs assessment to prioritize your focus. You don’t need to use the most advanced technology as long as you address the need. For example, for a project in Tanzania that I worked on a few years ago, the government wanted to address HIV in pregnant mothers. We digitized their data, did some GIS analysis and created a heat map to visualize settlements where mothers with HIV live and their proximity to health centers with the ability to test for and treat HIV. The heat maps showed that in areas with a higher density of pregnant mothers with HIV, there was a scarcity of health centers. This very simple map enabled the Tanzanian ministry of health to better allocate resources where they were most needed, which meant we could successfully halt the transmission of the virus from mothers to their unborn children. By going back to the basics, we can apply the appropriate technology to meet the specific health need.
About Nnamdi Ezeanochie
Nnamdi Ezeanochie is the Director of Behavior Science at Johnson & Johnson. He has extensive professional experience in technology-based health care and behavioral science implementation and research, with a unique focus on developing-country settings. His research expertise focuses on mobile technology adoption and implementation, health care program management, community and health behavior services, IT healthcare solutions, and disease outbreak management.
Prior to joining Johnson & Johnson, Nnamdi served as a Senior Research Associate at mHealth Impact Lab, Colorado School of Public Health, where he led efforts on evidence generation and research protocols standardization for behavior science-enhanced mHealth interventions both globally and within the US.
Nnamdi holds a DrPH in Community and Behavioral Health from the University of Colorado, an MPH with focus on International Development from the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom, and an MD from the University of Nigeria.
At Johnson & Johnson, Nnamdi focuses on providing scientific requirements that inform effective behavior change solutions (digital and non-digital). Nnamdi has several relevant peer-reviewed publications and has won academic and practice awards. Most notably was the Lawrence W. Green PAPER OF THE YEAR award 2017. This award was in recognition of his high level of scholarship and making a singularly important contribution to the behavior science literature.