Driving health outcomes and addressing inequalities

Panelists at PRWeek’s inaugural Health & Pharma Comms Awards and Summit discussed the impact of COVID-19 on a healthcare system rife with inequity.

L-R: Organon's Wendy Lund, Atrium Health's Chris Berger, Janssen's Isha Williams, The Black Women's Health Imperative's Michelle Webb and PRWeek's Steve Barrett.
L-R: Organon's Wendy Lund, Atrium Health's Chris Berger, Janssen's Isha Williams, The Black Women's Health Imperative's Michelle Webb and PRWeek's Steve Barrett.

NEW YORK: The opening panel of the 2022 PRWeek Healthcare & Pharma Comms Summit focused heavily on the broad impact of COVID-19.

Panel moderator Steve Barrett, VP and editorial director of PRWeek, began by asking how the pandemic affected social and health inequity.

Michelle Webb, chief marketing and communications officer at Black Women's Health Imperative, noted that "400 years of racial divide" made it difficult for minority communities to trust medical and government authorities during a pandemic.

"[The pandemic] reinforced [Atrium Health]'s mission of what we have to do. Health, hope and healing for all," said Chris Berger, VP of enterprise comms at Atrium Health. The company delivered masks, testing and vaccines to underserved communities throughout the pandemic.

Asked if they felt or had seen much change in the two years since the start of the pandemic, Wendy Lund, chief communications officer at Organon, said that, in the company's conversations with women, they said they felt "exhausted" during COVID, and that traditionally pharma "has done a lot of talking but not much listening and acting."

Lund added that Organon encouraged women to speak directly to the company via the Here for Her Health website and explain their unmet needs and healthcare concerns. 

When asked about how communications can better influence social and health inequity, the panelists collectively emphasized the need to listen to affected communities and adopt a "teach not preach" approach.

"Whatever we do, we must have a culturally relevant approach," said Isha Williams, head of culturally inclusive and relevant marketing at Janssen Pharmaceuticals. She stressed that communications leaders must "double down" and bring more diversity to the conversation.

This story was updated on May 12.

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