Representation in Health Communications

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By Sarah Gordon, Virgo Health, Managing Director

A global pandemic showed us the importance of inclusion in healthcare. The need to understand the impact of COVID on age groups, on those with comorbidities and on those from different communities showed us that not everyone has the same risk for the disease.  As health communicators we’re used to seeing disparities in risk but now as the world understands the critical need to “level up” we must make tackling inequalities in health a priority.

In the UK, we desperately need to improve outcomes amongst the poorest 20% of the population in conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, respiratory diseases, maternity care and mental health. We also know that people with limited financial and social resources are far more likely to have limited health literacy and this is linked to more hospital visits, longer hospital stays, poor adherence to treatment and increased mortality

We need to work harder to change this.

We must invest in proper research embedded in the communities we’re trying to reach to understand what will work. We need to test literacy levels and the language we use and while we know the right messengers are crucial, we also need to be more creative to make the messages count.

Our industry is up to the task and our teams and the new talent entering are more aware of the need for inclusion than ever before. Many campaigns are working harder to make a difference. At Virgo we’ve engaged women from diverse audiences for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’ve used rhythmic rhymes to reach men at risk of prostate cancer, voice tools to speak to people who can’t access patient information and we’re rethinking how we engage on social media to build online communities for people with diabetes.

There is a big job to do but the pandemic has also shown us the ability of the world to rapidly change behaviours to prevent illness as well as to learn – not least what a spike protein is, what antibodies do and how immunity wanes.  We have seen the power of what is possible and now we must step up.

First seen in PMLive May 2022.