Seen AND Heard at BlogHer Health: How Female Content Creators are Stepping up as the Not-so-silent Majority
By Jenny Gallo, EVP, Global Client Partner
June 3, 2022
June 3, 2022 – BlogHer has created a space in the digital communications industry focusing on the community of female creators—those who are building businesses, driving movements, fostering a network of empowered women and allies who are making something. And at this year’s BlogHer Health, it was clear that these creators were, perhaps more than ever, looking to make waves.
So much has changed over the past two years since I last attended the annual event in Los Angeles, particularly in the way we look at health and accepting the status quo. As a health communicator, it has been exciting to see previously overlooked aspects of medical research and the varying ways individuals’ intersecting identities impact their experience with the healthcare system become part of the public conversation. As a woman and mother, I’ve witnessed the pressures faced through the pandemic and an onslaught of discussions around reproductive health responded to with an unwillingness to continue hiding our grief, our stress, our feelings about our health and our need for more from the healthcare experience. More access, more options, more inclusion, more education and more grace to live our lives at every stage the way we choose.
These themes were repeated again and again at BlogHer Health 2022, through a diverse and motivated lineup of creators, reinforcing the vital role these digital leaders can play as partners in healthcare communications, particularly in areas where advocacy and activism meet. Here are a few highlights:
Destigmatizing the ways we talk about female health.
Pushing post-partum out of the shadows
In a world where the process of childbirth and motherhood are sanitized to hide the hard parts, it’s refreshing to see a shift from suffering in silence to getting real about the challenges new moms face, both physically and mentally. In a fireside chat with Christina Milian, she talked with Samantha Skey about the importance of balance, of taking time for yourself and the very real value that comes from sharing with other moms to increase awareness and foster a sense that you’re not alone. By talking about previously taboo topics—hair loss, breastfeeding, postpartum, hormonal imbalances—we can empower new mothers to listen to their body and push for the help they need.
“For our community, the ability to normalize health conversations, to share the information that is ‘uncomfortable’ is fundamental to us.” – Samantha Skey, CEO SheMedia
Menopause: from mid-life crisis to mid-life Renaissance
Many of us have been watching Stacy London for years, helping women feel more beautiful and like themselves through style. So when I first heard on the wonderful Hysteria podcast about her crusade to tackle menopause through her new company, State of Menopause, I was immediately intrigued. Kicking the conversation off with the concept that “women’s health has always been seen through the male gaze,” Stacy charged every individual going through menopause—recognizing that this is not an experience for women alone; loving the inclusivity of the trans and non-binary community here—to reclaim the language of our physicality in order to reclaim our health. What followed was an eye-opening look at the ways the very real and sometimes debilitating symptoms of menopause are discussed, validated and treated by healthcare professionals compared with male symptoms of aging.
An inclusive approach to innovative healthcare.
How to overcome public fear of participating in research
It was fitting that May 20th was Clinical Trials Day. COVID-19 threw the concept of trial design and inclusive research into the spotlight like never before, but misconceptions and fears of medical research also came to the forefront—some driven by historic handling of clinical trials and some, unfortunately, influenced by misinformation and disinformation. Pfizer led a discussion with their head of clinical trial experience, Judy Sewards, Dr. Jennifer Soung, and Olya Hillv and Amanda Klootsv (both of whose family members recently joined clinical trials) to talk about how we can overcome fears of serving as a volunteer and the needs for those communities most impacted by diseases to have a seat at the table for new vaccines and treatments.
The Black Maternal Health crisis: “we’re tired of teaching people how to treat us”
Pampers was next up to convene an important conversationv featuring Dr. Cindy Duke, Kimberly Durdin and Jesyka Harris that got really granular about cultural preconceptions and misconceptions that feed into the dramatic difference in health outcomes and quality of care for Black women and pregnant individuals, highlighting the need for implicit bias training, increasing the numbers of Black healthcare providers and working collaboratively to improve health literacy among patients.
“Every woman should have the opportunity for equal access to high-quality healthcare.”
Reclaiming our collective wellness
Putting mental health care in your pocket
After a full lineup of great female-led content and perspectives, Dr. Sherry Pagoto summed up the consistent thread: “the antidote to stigma is stories.” By refusing to suffer in silence, we open the floodgates for people to get help, to seek support. But, with the last two years increasing our collective need for mental health care, the healthcare system often lack the providers to meet the need. This is where digital wellness apps have stepped in—putting access to therapists and other psych specialists literally on call at our fingertips. But with more than 10k mental health and wellness apps available, finding legitimate sources is the next challenge.
What does all of this mean for health communications?
- Don’t shy away from “girl talk.” There is a consistent theme around sharing authentic experiences and reclaiming and validating the health journey of motherhood, of pregnancy, of female aging. Gone are the days where these are conversations for women only—as more people talk about their lived experiences, there are more opportunities to meet their need for better health education, disease awareness and truly solution-oriented products and services.
- Misconceptions and cultural naïveté are furthering health inequities. There has been a lot of attention paid to the concept of health inequities and driving inclusive healthcare, but clearly there is still work to be done. Leveling the playing field means approaching the gaps in care from BOTH sides—working hand-in-hand with underrepresented communities and listening to what they really need, while also supporting more culturally sensitive training for HCPs.
- Mental health is hugely important, and we need solutions that meet the growing need. It’s clear that access issues are intersecting with MedTech advances at a time when there has never been a greater need and a broader openness to prioritizing mental health. Data-backed and scientifically validated digital resources to address these needs may be the next phase of how we talk about staying well.
In the United States, women account for 51% of the population but control more than 80% of healthcare decisions. They not only make choices for their own health—and a greater amount due to more frequent and complex needs than men—but are also more likely to make choices and direct purchases for their families. In our line of work, keeping an eye toward how influential and vocal women in health are focusing their advocacy and activism efforts is an integral part of evolving alongside our consumers and stakeholders. Evolving attitudes towards previously sidelined or taboo topics and language inform how we build impactful communication strategies and even uncover untapped opportunities to reach new audiences and make a greater societal and business impact. For a first foray back into the world of in-person conferences, BlogHer Health was a revitalizing experience, at least for this female communicator. Thanks again to Evoke KYNE for allowing me the opportunity to dive into these important conversations.