The new women’s movement is health care

, ,
Cannes Women's Health

The new women’s movement is health care

By Katelyn Alderfer

Women’s health is health

Women make up 51 percent of the world’s population, yet health conditions that are unique to women often go ignored, misunderstood, and misdiagnosed. Women’s health is not as well understood in general and this was by design; In the United States, women were banned from clinical research until the 1990s. Despite this ban changing, outside of oncology, women’s health conditions continue to only make up about two percent of the industry’s research and innovation pipeline. Not only is women’s health lesser understood, but women’s agency around their health continues to diminish, with recent legislation in the United States forcing loss of control around women’s decision making around their health choices and their bodies.

Knowing audience needs is key to achieving healthcare parity

Graphic courtesy of CMI Media Group

We see this as a critical topic for healthcare marketers to be aware of and to address, and we presented on the topic at WPP Beach at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, as well as have conducted research and shared insights with the industry.

Topics related to women’s health may not be comfortable for all, but these are our bodies, our realities, and our truths, therefore they need to be addressed. With that said, it is important to understand the disparities in women’s health, that is why we conducted research on a variety of health conditions that affect women, from chronic pain to cardiovascular disease. We hope that this research can help empower marketers to understand their female audiences better, and to understand why the new women’s movement is in health care. 

Although our research does not include every health condition, or every intersectionality*, it made one thing very clear: we need to do better, not only for ourselves but also for the next generation of women.

Chronic pain

Chronic pain is an important health condition to acknowledge when it comes to women’s health, because according to Harvard Health, 70 percent of people with chronic pain are women, yet 80% of chronic pain studies are conducted on men. According to PubMed, women (60 percent) also received pain management at lower rates than men (67 percent).

But women are incredibly interested in learning more about their chronic pain, almost double the number of women research their chronic pain (42 percent) compared to men (23 percent). This is an important statistic for marketers as it shows that women are invested in education around their conditions. So much so that these women are also becoming part of online communities to understand their conditions and looking to social media to share their stories. Sixteen percent of females with chronic pain state they are involved in patient support groups. On social communities, women discuss how their pain is devalued compared to men. One of the largest injustices discussed in these social communities is the fact that female pelvic pain is not treated, taught, or researched. on platforms like TikTok are sharing stories about their chronic pain, how they have often not been believed by their doctors only to find out they had true medical conditions like endometriosis. Women are asking others to share their stories on social as well, to bring to light that women’s pain is real and needs to be addressed rather than ignored.

Reproductive health

Chronic pain often goes hand-in-hand with women’s reproductive health, with women experiencing pain across a variety of reproductive health conditions. On TikTok women are asking for more understanding around the pain and symptoms associated with menopause and perimenopause. Symptoms like crawling skin, depression, and anxiety were frequently mentioned, but women often remarked that finding accurate information around menopause was difficult. In fact, while completing our research on social channels, some of the best and only sources of infographics and facts about menopause came from accounts outside of the United States, showing that there is a huge gap in knowledge around menopause within the United States.

On social, women are also discussing how menopause is considered a condition that impacts the older generation, when in reality women can experience menopause and perimenopause at much younger ages. Sadly, women frequently mentioned on social channels that they did not know about many of the statistics that would directly affect them until they were already diagnosed with a condition. Fifteen percent of women stated that they seek out online forums where they can read about other experiences, and 10 percent  reported seeking out influencers on social media for advice and recommendations around their reproductive health.

Many women expressed across Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok that they knew very little about their own bodies until they were faced with experiencing these conditions. Statistics around women’s health are something that women should not only know about themselves, but something everyone should know about the community they live in. The possibilities of what can happen to our bodies and the bodies of those we love are important to understanding women and moving towards equality.  

What marketers can do

Cannes Women's Health

Cassandra Sinclair, President, Health & Wellness, Grey and Amy Litt, VP, Communications Planning, CMI Media Group, presenting “Women’s Health is the New Women’s Movement” at WPP Beach at Cannes. Image courtesy of CMI Media Group.

Women are asking for education; they want to know more about their own bodies and want to have a larger hand in their health. Currently, women are going to social media and webpages to find out more about their health and are commenting that they wish they had known more about their conditions. Marketers can step in by being the ones to help provide this education to women, giving them that agency to take their health into their own hands, ask their doctors about their health, and ultimately make educated choices about their bodies.

It is important that marketers research their audiences and utilize their resources to not only understand and listen to their audience but take that a step further and use that knowledge to show that they are listening to those wants and needs. This understanding can help with female representation because as organizations access more research around the health of women and the intersectionality’s that affect their healthcare, they can better show through their marketing materials, their audiences. By connecting deeply with their audiences, marketers will be better equipped to give female audiences what they are asking for, like education, representation, and support. Through this research it will also become evident as to where these audiences are forming community and consuming information, thus helping marketers determine how best to reach women with the information they crave.

In all, organizations and marketers can utilize their resources and leverage their position of power to support equality in healthcare, partnering with women to advocate for solutions that are grounded in research, equality, and empowerment.

*The data sets used in this article include all participants who identified themselves as female in CMI Media Group’s Media Vitals, Kantar, and other historic and contemporary sources. While the research endeavors to use gender as a lens to identify discrepancies in healthcare, women’s experiences vary dramatically with age, race, ethnicity, disability, income, sexual orientation, and gender expression. Specifically, we recognize that the findings in our report do not represent the healthcare challenges of transgender, gender-nonconforming and intersex people. 

Katelyn Alderfer is supervisor, social intelligence at CMI Media Group.