Celebration through Representation and Trusted Engagement

Tzatzil LeMair, Real Chemistry

Celebration through representation and trusted engagement

How the healthcare industry can better reach Hispanic communities.

By Tzatzil LeMair

September 15 marks the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, a time in which we recognize the positive impact people of Hispanic descent have had on the United States. At 62 million strong, this is the fastest growing segment of the population in this country, a trend that extends far beyond historic Hispanic population centers to every region and state. Yet, in industries like healthcare, there is significant opportunity to connect with this population more effectively and authentically.

Even though Hispanic people are more likely to be affected by chronic diseases than other populations, this segment of the population should be a primary target for healthcare companies, but they rarely are. While the Hispanic workforce makes up 17 percent of total U.S. workforce, they represent only 8 percent of all STEM workers. Healthcare and lifescience companies could be missing out on important internal guidance which would help them authentically connect with Hispanic communities through culturally relevant and trusted healthcare programs.

The following are several recommendations for how healthcare companies can help best connect and improve communications with Hispanic communities.

Representation matters. That means attracting, recruiting, and retaining Hispanic talent who understand cultural attitudes and behaviors that can help guide a company’s key messaging and approach. Companies should work closely with internal resources like Hispanic business resource groups or connect with Hispanic employees from across the business who can provide important feedback to company communications. If your company needs additional support, consider connecting with external, Hispanic special interest groups regularly for guidance.

Invest in inclusive research as part of your ongoing communications strategy. Culturally competent researchers ask the tough questions that may not typically be considered. To address bias, we must also consider questions like: What are my own worldviews and attitudes toward the target audience? How do my views shape whose stories get told? What knowledge do I have of my target audience’s mindset, motivations and behaviors?

Inclusive research ensures that the communications strategy will be informed by rich insights drawn from representative surveys and in-depth interviews, reflecting the diversity of the target audience, rather than an echo chamber.

Make it easy for Spanish speakers to access relevant information, in their preferred language. Are the right tools in place to communicate with those who are more comfortable speaking in Spanish? That will affect the ability to engage with this community. Building influence and trustworthiness goes beyond simple translation services. By making the right investments – from employee resource groups, recruiting and retaining Hispanic employees with the right expertise, and engaging consultants – creating culturally relevant materials and building trustworthiness with this audience will become standard practice. Seeking feedback from these channels will help ensure your message resonates with this audience and ensuring that you are addressing the questions and unique needs of this population. Other questions to keep in mind would be: Are we looking at the entire user journey? For example, if we are trying to recruit for a clinical trial, are we ensuring the website we are driving traffic to and all other marketing materials are in Spanish, is there is a Spanish language hotline, are there Spanish speakers at the CTR site?

Hispanic male and female gender roles of machismo and marianismo, respectively, impact the way messages can be perceived. Machismo and Marianismo can be detrimental to their health – men don’t want to be perceived as weak or sickly unable to take care of the family, so they avoid going to the doctor, or complaining. The same applies to Marianismo. But by understanding these cultural nuances and what drives behavior change within this segment, key messages can be developed that address these potential cultural barriers – by focusing the message on what they value most.  

We also see in traditional Hispanic cultures that people are sometimes discouraged from challenging authority, which can be a barrier for open communication between patients and care providers. Reinforcing the value of advocating for themselves in healthcare settings is critical for improving health outcomes.

It’s important to recognize the social and business imperative of healthcare companies reaching historically marginalized populations as a core consideration in the strategic planning process when seeking to engage Hispanic communities. Whether reaching this community or other underrepresented populations, you will have more of an impact with a solid strategy and an experienced team who knows how to respectfully engage Hispanic communities.

Tzatzil LeMair, Real Chemistry Tzatzil LeMair is group director, social media activation at Real Chemistry.