Barbie, healthcare, and what the recent film success could mean to the women’s health


Barbie, healthcare, and what the recent film success could mean to the women’s health

By Elizabeth Rooney, EVERSANA INTOUCH

Aside from the smashing success of Barbie setting box office records, topping more than $500 million and counting, the movie is also doing something much more important than sales – shining a spotlight on women’s health. In a time where there seems to be a war waged on women’s reproductive health and autonomy, Barbie (of all symbols!) has come along to shine an empowering spotlight on women’s self-care, self-worth, identity, and of course, their health.

But does it really take a movie about a somewhat controversial doll to lead the way to female empowerment? With her impossible measurements and stereotypical beauty standards and whose first utterances in 1992’s Barbie included phrases “Will we ever have enough clothes?” and “Math class is tough”—this is our inspiration?

Well, yes. Let’s think of this Barbie phenomenon as a catalyst to put women’s health and well-being at the forefront. How can we, as pharma marketers, keep the momentum going?

Recognize the disparity
Women have been historically ignored and underrepresented in healthcare research and practice. We have come a long way, but it was as recently as 1993 that it became a federal law to include women in clinical trials. Before that, they weren’t recruited, and life-saving medications were not studied in their bodies, even for diseases such as cardiovascular diseases that affected them even more than men. This underrepresentation is even more profoundly evident in women of color.

In one recent example, the American Cancer Society reported that 41% of black women in the United States with breast cancer are more likely to face mortality than white women — despite fewer women of color being diagnosed.

When confronted with this inequity, many trailblazers are working to erase this gap. Organizations like the Chrysalis Initiative, a foundation that is dedicated to fighting breast cancer treatment disparities, has launched a power awareness campaign to help close the gap. The Erase the Line campaign directly addresses the issue to increase action among healthcare providers and women themselves to receive the lifesaving care they deserve.  It’s a powerful example of how the fight for equality continues.

Reach the underrepresented
Sometimes the people who are the most difficult to reach are the most in need. For example, nearly 20% of new HIV diagnoses in the United States are in women, and more than half of those women are women of color. Yet only 11% of women who could benefit from pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) are prescribed it.

Healthcare should be an equal opportunity for all, and that includes cisgender women, nonbinary people, and even cisgender men. Part of the reason they’re not receiving the message is that they aren’t being invited, and we’re not offering information on platforms that reach them.

Companies like Gilead Life Sciences are changing that. They are renowned for their leadership in advancing treatments for HIV and HIV prevention, inclusive trial design, and progressive marketing. They are currently focused on the historically underrepresented people affected by HIV with recruitment efforts for several upcoming clinical trials, which will investigate the use of PrEP to prevent HIV. As part of that effort, they’ve created a destination for clinical trial recruitment that has expanded campaign outreach to connect with those who would benefit most from PrEP.

Change is ours to make
There are meaningful areas where we can all make a difference. From endometriosis, a condition that affects 190 million women worldwide, but whose research funding is woefully low, to pain management for gynecologic procedures, or to fair treatment in an emergency department, we are part of the community that can have an impact on these inequalities and can do something about them.

We’ve seen progress: cardiovascular health research in women continues to improve. There has been progress in cervical cancer treatment and research. The Barbie film has played a role in normalizing and celebrating Pap smears as a health-affirming action. Who could have seen that coming?

As women, and especially women in marketing, the responsibilities are ours. Through our talent and creativity, the Barbie film has demonstrated that we can bring choice to the choiceless, voice to the voiceless, and put a spotlight on the unseen. We have the channels and the technology to reach millions. It’s on us to make it happen. Let’s do it.

Elizabeth Rooney, EVERSANA Elizabeth Rooney is senior vice president, executive creative director at EVERSANA INTOUCH. She is a is a passionate, creative leader who ignites potential in people and brands. She has owned and sold her own agency, helped grow a privately held agency into a global empire, and now inspires remarkable, insight-driven creative at EVERSANA INTOUCH, backed by her 20+ years of global marketing experience. She prides herself on her ability to see the big picture without losing sight of the details—which translates to wholistic solutions, frictionless collaborations, award-winning creative, and long-lasting results.