Illuminating the path towards healthcare communications
Without a shadow of a doubt, medical communication has influenced most people’s lives one way or another throughout the years. From cleverly-placed TV ads teaching us the importance of brushing our teeth twice daily (sharing the opinions of ‘9 out of 10 dentists’), to respecting social distancing policies and raising awareness on mental health – these are just some of the projects that have successfully circulated around the world in the past few years.
Still, for most people, the healthcare communications industry remains an enigmatic concept, with many being unaware of the various career possibilities within the sector. For every writer, designer, account manager, sales rep, scientist and doctor, there is a vast number of projects, therapy areas and interesting topics to delve into, ultimately in the hopes of bringing patients and their healthcare closer together.
Over the past year, many incredible stories were shared with the world. With each of them, the people connected by the same interests, wishes and hopes felt heard, more understood and, perhaps, even appreciated.
We collated some of the most inspiring stories and campaigns that we came across this year, and added the impressions of our medical writers to each of them. To learn more about each of the showcased campaigns, please follow the links provided.
Why our #wombstories need to be heard
Launched by Libresse & Bodyform, in collaboration with AMV BBDO, the campaign focuses on different reproductive journeys, as told by women
The #wombstories campaign, launched by Libresse & Bodyform and created by AMV BBDO in 2020, illuminated the unseen, unheard, and unknown stories of women and their often-taboo reproductive journeys. Simply put, from a young age, girls are told a single story: around the age of 12, you’ll get your first period, which is a biologically functional process that will repeat every 28 days. With it, you may get pain (or not). You’ll go on to find a partner and have children (all thanks to your womb), and then your body can retire, having done its job.
But we all know that the story is so much more complex than that. With an emotional video and animation, Libresse & Bodyform widened the narrative and dispelled the silence that surrounds topics like the agonising pain of endometriosis (depicted as a monster; rightly so!), the joy and pain of childbirth, the devastation of a miscarriage, and so much more.
Using the hashtag, #wombstories, women around the world were encouraged to share their stories. These are stories of love, hate, pleasure, pain, longing for children, never wanting children, clockwork periods, haywire periods, and the bumpy ride into menopause. And share stories they did; these are brave, uncensored, honest stories – ‘womb stories’ – and they’ll help bring these topics back into the limelight.
On the back of this campaign, #painstories have also been shared – to help dismantle the shame and break the silence that stops women from getting the help they deserve. The campaign supports earlier diagnosis of endometriosis and includes the launch of the first Pain Dictionary, a new language for pain, created from real descriptions from people with endometriosis.
Importantly, #wombstories showed the world that women should not feel ashamed, embarrassed, or hide because of their story: they are not alone. Their ‘wombstories need to be heard’! This Med Comms campaign is not only important and powerful, but it strikes you directly in the heart. I guarantee that #wombstories will stay with you for a very long time.
Check out #wombstories here.
The Feelings – mental health awareness week campaign for healthcare workers
The Laura Hyde Foundation redirects the spotlight on mental health and front-line workers
The COVID crisis inspired a renewed appreciation of front-line workers. But although life has largely returned back to normal for most of us, doctors, paramedics and other healthcare workers are continuing to feel the strain. Due to the intense pressures of their jobs, those on the front line remain a high-risk group for mental health issues such as depression, PTSD and suicide.
For this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, The Laura Hyde Foundation created a vivid and colourful campaign called ‘The Feelings’. With 3D characters such as ‘Power Less’ and ‘Rising Dread’, this 2-minute animation brings to life the varied and complex emotional states experienced by healthcare workers. By spreading awareness of these struggles, the campaign provides a much-needed outlet for healthcare workers to share their own feelings and seek the support they need.
Learn more about the campaign here.
Made by dyslexia – adding ‘dyslexic thinking’ to your LI profile
Made By Dyslexia partners with Sir Richard Branson, in a campaign aimed to give power back to those influenced by #DyslexicThinking
Dyslexia is often described as a learning difficulty, which causes problems with spelling, reading or writing. As many as 1 in 5 people are influenced by dyslexia, so, chances are, you might know someone who has a story to share on this topic. Although traditionally viewed as an obstacle for most people at school or in the workplace, Made By Dyslexia believes there are many reasons why dyslexic thinking should be celebrated – and we agree!
In their 2022 campaign titled, #DyslexicThinking, the global charity partnered with Sir Richard Branson to promote the use of the eponymous term as part of people’s LinkedIn profiles, to help share their story with others. The drop-down skill menu on the platform now allows people to add Dyslexic Thinking to the list of skills and abilities they possess, eliminating the stigma around dyslexia and giving power back to those influenced by it. In addition, Dictionary.com have committed to adding ‘Dyslexic Thinking’ as an official term, helping to spread awareness, one search at a time.
The charity’s mission – which they hope to achieve by 2025 – is simple: they want to train every teacher worldwide to discover, support and empower dyslexic children. Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightly and Chris Robshaw are just some of the influential people featured in the campaign, helping to straighten the narrative on dyslexia and encourage people to embrace their abilities.
Join thousands of people who have already begun celebrating this movement and ‘show your pride in being made by dyslexia’!
More information about the campaign can be accessed at this link.
Boehringer Ingelheim’s ‘Unwearable Collection’ campaign for psoriatic arthritis
Boehringer Ingelheim and Area 23 partner to shine a light on generalised pustular psoriasis with fashion that’s not fast – just unwearable
Fashion that’s not fast – just unwearable.
If you find yourself at a dermatology congress this year (yes, a real-life congress!), you may unexpectedly collide with a display of eight-foot tall mannequins. But New York Fashion Week it ain’t. The Unwearable Collection is a disease awareness campaign that hones in on the experiences of those living with generalised pustular psoriasis (GPP), a rare immunological skin disease characterised by severe pain.
Led by Boehringer Ingelheim and creative agency, Area 23, and debuted at the American Academy of Dermatology Annual Meeting 2022 in Boston, this campaign takes cross-functional collaboration to a whole new level. The collection was curated by renowned Dutch artist, Bart Hess, whose work is famed for taking an alternative view of the human body, and who designed the slime dress for Lady Gaga’s ‘Born this Way’ album shoot.
The ‘costumes’ clearly convey the symptoms and everyday burden of GPP: isolation and pain are emulated via shards of broken glass and paper, red-orange flames, and even razor blades in the form of a boa constrictor.
The campaign will be showcased at other congresses throughout the year. Forget everything else you’ve seen in a typical exhibition area – this is a powerful creation that has patient-centricity at its core.
Learn more about #GPP by accessing the following link.
‘It’s not getting old, it’s getting ill’: an Alzheimer’s society campaign
The UK’s leading dementia charity, Alzheimer’s Society, empowers those affected by memory loss and draws attention to the disorder
Coping with memory loss is a daunting experience. Becoming aware of, and accepting the diagnosis: it’s even more so.
Stemming from the case of a single patient back in 1906, news of the disease which would later come to be known as ‘Alzheimer’s’ circled around the world, giving patients and their families some much-needed relief in the discovery of a diagnosis.
Since then, tremendous efforts have been channelled to combat the neurodegenerative disorder, and steady progress was made in changing people’s lives for the better, year after year. Still, much work is needed, as modern medicine continues its progress towards better understanding the condition, and offering effective treatment options to patients.
Sharing stories, drawing attention to new forms of treatment and improving hospital care for dementia patients are just some of the group efforts shared by medical communications specialists around the globe.
Irrespective of the language, culture or country, Alzheimer’s is a recognisable term, allowing people to have direct access to studies, posts and stories they resonate with. At the heart of making information accessible to people – whether they’re patients, clinicians or pharmaceutical companies – is medical communication. It’s important to put Alzheimer’s on the map and delegate the necessary efforts to improve the well-being of patients everywhere. This task would be impossible without disseminating the scientific evidence to the wider public and allowing for general information on Alzheimer’s, news or medical progress in the field to be understood.
Beyond spreading awareness, medical communications allow people to connect and come together with others who understand what they’re going through. News articles, videos shared on social media or brochures found in a doctor’s practice: these are just a few examples of the ways in which medical communications impact people’s daily lives, bringing them closer together.
Connecting people and illuminating the path towards a common goal is my definition of medical communications. What’s yours? The video, along with additional details on the campaign, can be accessed here.
Elvie’s ‘smart tech for smart bodies’ campaign
Elvie partners with Eva Lazarus to deliver a powerful anthem for women and their intricate bodies
The Elvie ‘Smart tech for smart bodies’ campaign was launched earlier this year and highlights how women’s bodies should be seen as smart (and how Elvie’s smart technology can support them).
The campaign calls to all women who’ve been led to believe that their body is fragile, broken or confusing, and aims to ‘set the record straight’. Women’s bodies go through a lot during pregnancy, child-birth and the postnatal period, and the Elvie campaign celebrates this and how smart the female body can be. It’s also done with a very catchy and up-to-date tune, which will get stuck in your head!
‘I love my body because my body is amazing; I’m not talking a size or a shape thing’
Elvie’s smart products aim to make the chaotic life of a new mother slightly easier. For instance, the Elvie Pump is a wearable, wireless and tube-free breast pump that can be worn inside the bra for breast-milk pumping on the go, thus, freeing up some much-needed time (and hands!) for other things.
On a serious note, women’s bodies are pretty smart. Our bodies should be celebrated for what they can do and anything that makes them work smarter not harder should be seen as a win!
Support the #respectmysmartbody initiative and watch the campaign video here.
NHS England ‘Jack in a box’ advert to encourage people to seek medical attention if they’re concerned about something
In partnership with M&C Saatchi, NHS England aims to encourage patients to visit their GP more often and not postpone their worries until later
We all have different things that are constantly weighing on our minds. The fear, the worry, the angst and expectation that something might (not) work out impedes us from overcoming problems and putting our minds at ease. After all, it’s better to not know and be happy, than to know and be worried – or is it?
The reality is that many of us would sooner grab our phones for an answer, scrolling through forums and opinions online, when our body might be giving us early warning signs of cancer. Over the years, patient delay has become a growing problem; many patients diagnosed with cancer were reported to delay contacting a medical professional about a sudden change in their bodies, and instead waited for a spike in their symptoms before searching for medical advice. Unfortunately, this phenomenon leads to reduced chances of survival as a consequence of late detection of disease.
There are many reasons why people choose to delay seeking help: expecting symptoms to improve over time, financial and time constraints, or fear of diagnosis. In an attempt to bring down some of these barriers, NHS England has partnered with M&C Saatchi in launching a new campaign aimed at people who live in fear of visiting their GP. The 60-second TV ad uses the analogy of a person carrying around a jack-in-the-box to represent their worries about a potential cancer diagnosis. The end shows a relieved patient and an empty box, to symbolise that statistically, the majority of people who opt to be tested don’t have cancer.
This collaboration shows just how important it is to give health-related issues the right exposure, and how medical communication specialists contribute to raising awareness on critical matters. Still, many continue to believe that cancer diagnoses are likely to involve poor patient prognosis over time. For this reason, efforts are needed to combat this narrative, and help people understand that earlier detection leads to higher chances of survival.
This is just one of the many missions that medical communication specialists take on, with the hope that every ad, campaign, poster and video will reach the right people and encourage them to take proactive steps towards putting their own minds at ease and safeguarding their health.
The video can be accessed at the following link.
‘Spill your guts’ campaign for people living with IBD
To help fight the negative space surrounding inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), the UK Chron’s & Colitis foundation launches the #ittakesguts campaign
Maybe, when you go to dinner with your best friend, all they can order is a gluten-free, dairy-free, meat-free side salad. Perhaps your sister or brother spends hours in the bathroom, and – when they finally emerge – they look tired and in pain. Or, you might recall that your colleague has cancelled plans time and time again with you because they just aren’t feeling well. People living with ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are often embarrassed by their symptoms and hide them from their friends, family, and the world, by simply saying, ’I’m fine‘. In reality, they are far from fine: they are doubled over in pain, too exhausted to get out of bed, or unable to be more than 2 metres away from a toilet.
To fight the stigma and embarrassment felt by IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) sufferers when it comes to their symptoms, the UK Crohn’s & Colitis foundation launched the #ittakesguts campaign – giving an online platform to people living with IBD to find their voice and share their stories.
The animated campaign featured various people talking about living with IBD and the impact it has on their everyday life, from the numerous symptoms to the rollercoaster of emotions: think pain, discomfort, exhaustion and even thoughts of sadness when looking at a menu and seeing nothing to eat (or yet again searching for a bathroom). The online platform consisting of ’find the words‘, ’show how you feel‘ and ’tell your story‘ aimed to help people living with IBD to find the confidence and support they need to speak up – allowing their families, friends, and colleagues to see in plain sight both the suffering and the strength that was previously hidden.
For me, the true secret superhero power of Med Comms is the ability to empower people to find their own voice and take control of their health – don’t you agree?
Check out the animation for #ittakesguts here.
Coronavirus and COVID – a book for children
Written by Elizabeth Jenner, Kate Wilson and Nia Roberts, this book aims to explain what coronavirus is to children, using engaging illustrations
Back in 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, a famous children’s illustrator teamed up with some experts to publish ‘Coronavirus: A book for children’.
Not having been written for the usual audience for medical communications, this was specifically aimed at our little people to help them understand what was going on in the world. The book was published as a free digital download and audiobook for primary school-aged children to help explain what coronavirus is and how its spread can be controlled.
The text is written in a clear, child-friendly way and aims to both inform and reassure children at a time that was scary and unknown. Their lives had been turned upside down in an instant: there’d be no more school, they couldn’t see their friends, and at best could only wave at their wider family members through windows! The publication gave both children and parents child-appropriate answers to some of the many questions and worries that were facing all of us during the pandemic. ‘We hope it answers difficult questions at difficult times.’
Published by @nosycrow, the book was beautifully illustrated by Axel Scheffler of ‘The Gruffalo’ fame, using imagery likely to be very familiar to most school-age children. The text had expert input from Professor Graham Medley of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine @lshtm as well as two headteachers and a child psychologist.
The book can be downloaded and listened to here.
‘Be the Change for TB’ – J&J’s campaign to work towards eliminating TB in India by 2025
Johnson & Johnson team up with rapper, Kunal Pandagale, and Bollywood actress, Vaani Kapoor, to raise awareness on the Pulmonary Tuberculosis crisis in India
Pulmonary Tuberculosis (PTB) is a worldwide problem, with nearly 2 billion people being affected by this condition. India bears 26% of the global burden, which drove the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical division in the country to employ the power of music and reach millions of young people.
Perhaps the biggest issue India faces currently is spreading awareness on PTB, as 3 out of 10 people with tuberculosis continue to go undiagnosed and untreated for a condition that can beboth preventable and treatable. A delay in seeking medical attention and recognising the early signs of disease are believed to be at the core of this issue, prompting the need to encourage young people to adopt a different behaviour, creating a perpetual wave in their communities to drive the message forward.
With the help of young rapper, Kunal Pandagale, and Bollywood actress, Vaani Kapoor, the message was translated into an artistic movement, with a striking contemporary dance performance resonating in tandem with meaningful lyrics and a modern melody, featured throughout the 3-minute video.
‘Be the change’ is the key message of the composition, which successfully managed to reach millions of 18–29-year-olds across various social media platforms. This powerful movement assisted in driving forward the interest of other corporations, charities and foundations to shine light on additional standing issues such as HIV prevention, women empowerment or tobacco control.
Join the movement by becoming aware of PTB and #BeTheChange you want to see in others!
Further details on the campaign can be accessed here.
Movember is changing the face of men’s health in this global campaign, aiming to improve the wellbeing of Mo Bros and Mo Sisters across the world
We all have one. The brother, partner, father or friend that spends most of their days barefaced, but will sport an impressive moustache for just one month out of the year (or try to, at least). We have the wildly successful Movember movement to thank for that.
But inspiring Mo’s around the world is just the start of it. Since 2003, Movember has raised funds to support more than 1,250 projects across mental health, suicide prevention, prostate cancer and testicular cancer.
Movember was born out of the realisation that men are dying too young, and often from causes that are preventable. With a mission to help men live happier, healthier, longer lives, Movember is dedicated to educating men on how to take control of their health. They also aim to break the stigma surrounding mental health for men and boys across the world.
With Mo’s of all shapes and sizes, Movember has created a global movement with millions of followers to change the face of men’s health. Take Mike, who is working to improve the mental wellbeing of motorcycle riders; Indie rapper Toussaint, who shares his struggles with mental health through music; or Mo Bro Anthony, who talks about the steps of his testicular cancer journey.
By sharing these stories, Movember and its incredible network of supporters hope to reach every man (and their partners, friends or family members) so that no one feels alone in their health journey.
P.S. If you need Mo inspiration, they’ve even provided a style guide to help you get started.
You can learn more about Movember’s mission, find out how to support the cause, and hear stories from Mo Bros and Mo Sisters across the world here.
Collectively, the campaigns collated here reached millions of people around the globe. Perhaps for the first time ever, some of the writers, readers or viewers of these stories felt heard, validated and recognised for their unique ability to overcome difficult situations.
For many, it was more than a healthcare campaign meant to reach the masses; it was about trust and coming together as a community, locally or globally, to face the challenges of today and offer support to one another.
Within the many-faceted industry of medical communications, everyone – from designers, scientists and writers to sales reps and doctors – is involved in ensuring the right message reaches the right people, at the right time. There is no sole ‘winner’ of the success of a project – it is a shared team achievement, making the Med Comms field one of the most rewarding industries to be part of.
Still, there are many stories yet to be shared and campaigns waiting to be released out into the world. For the betterment of healthcare and well-being of patients everywhere, share your Med Comms stories today and help raise awareness on other stories that you think should be heard.