The Edelman Health Barometer, released this week, showed that even personal health has a social aspect. Nancy Turett, global president of Edelman’s health group, told us this morning that PR has a part to play in the spreading of healthy behaviors. Health is becoming an issue much like environmental awareness and sustainability: there’s the growing expectation that companies will address these issues as part of their business.
“Health is the most personal of public issues and the most public of personal issues,” she said. “Because health is such a social issue, we’re all playing a role, and this was the biggest ‘A-ha!’ from the study this year. Businesses need to reset their lens. The lens is not only about how the individual can become healthier, but that we are individuals and health influencers.”
Turett said even non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and chronic lung disease are communicable. But rather than spreading through a virus, they are spread through behavior. The study found that 31 percent of people avoid others with unhealthy habits, so if we’re going to spread good health, people have to work together.
“When you look at how business has typically engaged in health, it’s been more along the lines of health policy and things that have more to do with the system than the individual,” Turett added. “There’s more opportunity to engage in health on an individual basis.” As such, publicists and businesses need to start by looking at what sort of engagement they’re having with others and assessing what sort of influencer they are. (Turett called this a “healthprint.”)
Moreover, she identified three things that healthcare PR practitioners need to consider in order to help their clients engage with audiences and make health a part of business policy.
-“Stop thinking that health equals healthcare.” The health industry is spread across a number of areas, such as the food industry.
-“Recognize that behavior is communicable.” For businesses it goes beyond healthcare and into how good behaviors can be shared.
-The impact of both good and bad health is social and economic as well. Communications is key. “So those that practice PR in its most evolved role must make sure that our ‘healthprint’ is valuable to our client on a societal level,” Turett said.