These days, it seems like we have an observance day, week or month for everything. However, I would argue that the healthcare industry declares the majority of observances – unsurprisingly, as health not only impacts all of us, but also is constantly changing and evolving at both the individual and population levels.
This week, amid my weekly news scanning, I decided to tune into National Women’s Health Week – an annual observance led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) held the week after Mother’s Day – this year, from May 8-14. I thought to myself, this is definitely a broad one, but I liked the goals: to “Empower women to make their health a priority, and to help women understand what steps they can take to improve their health.” Just as my inner skeptic began to replay all the tips and tricks I’ve heard in the past – What can I really learn that I haven’t heard before? I know I need to sleep better, lift weights more. I should probably chill out on my Sour Patch Kids addiction – it hit me. This is precisely why the public needs observance months, because over time, we become complacent with our health.
While new health tips matter, I was more curious about the coverage trends I might find in the media that would brim to the surface. We’ve all heard “content is king” but as PR practitioners, it’s just as important to understand the context surrounding content – as content without context is just noise.
Below are three media trends and the takeaways I’m seeing based on the most common topics coming to the surface so far this week:
Women tend to prioritize the health of their families and communities over their own – It’s not uncommon to hear that women make the majority of health care decisions for the family unit, which can be viewed as a positive thing. However, because of this, women frequently put their own health on the back burner. According to HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burnwell, women aren’t taking advantage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) benefits as much as they should be – despite the fact the ACA is responsible for an additional estimated 9.5 million women gaining health insurance coverage since its implementation, there is still a large gap in women utilizing that coverage. The point underscored by several articles in the media is that it’s not enough to use your health insurance only when you’re sick. Preventative care is critical for well-being, and that means checking in with your doctor regularly, even when you’re not sick.
Mental health awareness is heightening, and matters just as much as physical health – May also happens to have Mental Health Month, so it’s no surprise that the media is spotlighting mental health. Yet, I was surprised to see that the volume of coverage focused on psychological health was fairly even with physical health related coverage. The reasoning for this, I believe, is that mental health disorders tend to have a stigma, and are not easily understood because the symptoms of mental illness are not as clear cut as the symptoms of physical ailments. This week, many reporters are talking about the environment’s role in mental health, and how minority populations can be disproportionately affected. Major corporations are also getting on board – this week, Walgreens launched a new mental screening health initiative for example, citing that mental health conditions affect more people than heart disease or diabetes. It is also great to see strong female figures open up about their personal struggles with mental health – reporting that while mental health awareness is improving, we still have a way to go.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to “Having it all” – Women hear it all the time: “you can have it all!” Since this mantra came into our lives, many have found that to be completely true – using it as a guiding star, whereas others have vehemently criticized it, touching on themes of privilege and unrealistic expectations. This week, the topic of balance is coming to the forefront. Author of the famous book Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg, even admitted this week that the rhetoric she helped create could potentially be flawed. This trend revealed to me that while we can all agree that balance is important for health and well-being, the jury is still out on what the best approach is to achieve it. Perhaps it’s time to redefine “having it all” and let each woman decide for herself what the best balance for her life looks like.
The conversations stirred by the media so far during this year’s National Women’s Health Week revealed again the fluid nature of healthcare – it’s hard to keep up, and it’s even harder to interpret – further pointing to the need for awareness initiatives to resist complacency with health. As we look to promote awareness events in the future on behalf of our clients, it’s important to keep this fact in mind and examine the context of the clutter of content in order to present information authentically and in a way that resonates.
What do you think? Are you seeing any trends this week that we’ve missed? Comment below!