Highlights from the PRWeek Healthcare & Pharma Comms Summit

Major themes: The impact of COVID-19, combating misinformation, health technology and creativity in a highly regulated environment.

Photo credit: Erica Berger
Photo credit: Erica Berger

NEW YORK: The 2022 PRWeek Healthcare & Pharma Comms Summit in New York City featured panels on how to combat misinformation about health issues and the rise of health technology. 

Natalia Forsyth, group SVP and U.S. head of influence at GCI Health, moderated a session on the effective use of HCP influencers. 

Panelist Christa Lombardi, director of global and U.S. women’s health comms at Organon, said “the power of social influence from HCPs on women’s health is staggering.”

She added that Organon found that for many women, especially Hispanic and Latina women, there is still a taboo around discussing issues like birth control, even with HCPs. 

Another panel, moderated by PRWeek managing editor Gideon Fidelzeid, focused on tackling the health equity conundrum. 

When asked about working with the U.S. government to address health equity, panelist Mikel Whittier, director of the office of health equity, diversity and inclusion at UCLA Health, said, “[The U.S. government] has to reckon with the historical facts that perpetuate health inequity in this country.”

Another panelist, James Wright, global CEO of Red Havas and global chairman of Havas PR Global Collective, said that for comms and marketing leaders, health equity is “not just a moral issue but a reputational management issue” as well. 

Frank Washkuch, executive editor of PRWeek, moderated the following panel on elevating the health technology revolution. 

Panelists were quick to praise the emerging role of artificial intelligence in healthcare, but Stephanie Marchesi, president of global health at WE Communications, mentioned some of health tech’s drawbacks. 

“Telehealth is wonderful, but if you don't have access to the internet to see your doctor or the money to buy the hardware, that’s a problem,” she said. “Healthcare companies need to start working more with telecommunications companies to figure out how to provide this care to those who are really in need.”

Steve Barrett, VP and editorial director of PRWeek, later led a discussion on creativity in a regulated environment. 

Panelists agreed upon the need to, first and foremost, resonate with the audience. Eric McKeeby, director of comms and marketing at Regeneron, stressed the need to “communicate in a way that people actually communicate.”

When asked about how the new hybrid workplace environment has affected creativity, Kay Twomey, SVP of health and wellness at Egami Group, said, “Some great creatives are very shy. It’s nice that they can be in a setting where they feel comfortable.”

Kara Giannecchini, senior director of events and custom content at MM+M, PRWeek, Campaign and McKnight's, hosted the final panel of the night on combating misinformation about health issues. 

Dr. Olajide Williams, founder and president at Hip Hop Health, spoke about what more brands can do to promote credible, science-based healthcare information. 

“We must find community-based ways to listen to our constituents and incorporate it into our approach,” he said. 

Williams also emphasized that health information is very private and sensitive, and that each community is nuanced.

“What works in Harlem may not in South Bronx,” he added. 

Go here to check out the winners of the 2022 Healthcare & Pharma Communications Awards.

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