By Dr. John Agwunobi, President of Health & Wellness, Walmart U.S.
I STARTED MY career as a pediatrician because I found it rewarding to help children and enjoyed seeing the positive difference you could make in each life. When I got the call to enter public service, first at the Florida Department of Health and later in the Department of Health and Human Services, it was a difficult decision. I knew I would miss regularly seeing patients, and I still do.
And then, I came to Walmart—and while I still no longer get to see patients, I do get to see first-hand how businesses have the potential to make a positive impact on each and every customer’s health. I regularly visit stores and talk with customers and staff. Doing this is one of the most interesting parts of my job. I hear about customers struggling with pain, because they can’t afford a doctor’s visit, and then end up in the ER for an even more costly visit. As the largest retailer in the world, we believe we have an opportunity and a responsibility to help improve this situation by helping people afford to stay healthy—whether it’s dealing with a chronic disease such as diabetes or simply being able to afford their medications.
Our prescription program has already saved Americans billions of dollars and helped to expand access to generic versions of popular medications. More than 100 of our prescriptions are used to treat heart disease and diabetes, two of the most prevalent diseases within several minority populations, and two of the overall leading causes of death within our country.
In addition to reducing the cost of medications, we’re also working to make health care products more affordable. According to the CDC, more than 12 percent of African American adults, about 3.7 million adults, have been affected by diabetes and the cost of glucose strips alone can cost patients more than $1,000 per year. The launch of Walmart’s diabetes products, including blood glucose meters and test strips, has the potential to save diabetes patients millions of dollars.
In my days as a pediatrician, I strived to help each individual patient. Today, in my role at Walmart, I strive to help Americans live better. And, I don’t think there’s a more powerful way to express that mission than in helping Americans live healthier lives by making their health-related needs more affordable.