Many people in racial and ethnic minority groups experience healthcare disparities, making them higher risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer and severe illness or death from COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition to supplying treatments for these conditions, pharma can do more to improve health equity and help close these gaps for patients.
Because socioeconomic factors including financial stability, insurance coverage and health literacy can all impact health outcomes, it’s important to consider patients’ holistic experiences so that all populations have an equal opportunity to be as healthy as possible, says Karima Sharif, Head of Inclusive Investments and Partnerships at Publicis Health Media.
“Patient adherence is not simply writing the prescription and taking the doctor’s orders,” Sharif says. “It is truly understanding the full human being and the full socioeconomic effects on patients while they interact with their doctors. Pharma needs to understand and be aware of that, while also starting to think through how to address those inequities.”
Here are four ways that pharma marketers can help improve health equity.
1. Prioritize diverse and inclusive media investments
When making media investments, seek out marketplace suppliers that value diversity. Partnering with companies that prioritize involving and supporting underserved racial and ethnic groups helps to ensure that all patient populations are recognized and included in pharma outreach, treatments and more.
Sharif recommends investing in diverse-owned and diverse-targeted media suppliers since they are typically already actively engaged with communities where vulnerable patient groups face inequities, and therefore, best understand their unique healthcare challenges. By partnering with diverse-owned media suppliers, pharma also helps to put financial resources back into communities that are most affected by social determinants of health factors such as income and food insecurity.
“These are Black-owned or minority-owned [organizations] that help put the dollars back into the community, which then helps the ecosystem,” Sharif explains.
Crafting relationships with culturally relevant content producers, agencies and creators not only expands pharma’s opportunities to support the financial health of diverse communities, it also promotes engagement with hard-to-reach patients, improving their health literacy with important information that can help combat care inequities.
2. Practice cultural competence
It’s important not to be performative when entering diverse and underserved communities. Pharma professionals should make sure that healthcare professionals (HCPs) adequately understand cultural differences among the patients they see and know how to best engage with a variety of racial and ethnic communities, Sharif says. For example, pharma can help HCPs communicate more effectively with patients in predominantly Hispanic communities by recommending that they provide translators for their Spanish-speaking patients, as 62% of Hispanic patients prefer healthcare information and resources in Spanish, according to Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs research cited by Forbes.
Also, ensuring that media offerings at the point of care and in doctors’ offices are tailored to the languages and cultural nuances of diverse patient communities is a great way to improve patients’ health literacy and support effective HCP-patient interactions across cultures.
3. Partner with endemic media companies committed to cultural relevance
In addition to working with local and community-based content providers, it’s important to collaborate with some of the endemic companies that create culturally relevant content. Sixty-five percent of Hispanics can be reached consistency on Spanish language TV; because of this, Sharif suggests tapping into TelevisaUnivision and other Spanish-formatted networks such as NBCUniversal’s Telemundo when seeking to engage Hispanic patient populations. Partnering with diverse or minority-focused channels can help drive awareness among patient populations that are sometimes overlooked in data collection, research and development.
Disseminating health information and media through channels that targeted diverse communities already trust will help support pharma’s relationships with those patient groups and ultimately increase patient awareness of specific diseases and available treatments.
4. Reach broader audiences through diverse targeting and messaging
While engaging with diverse-owned and culturally focused partners should be a major marketing focus, reaching broader audiences through mainstream platforms is also an important engagement approach. All types of communities frequent major platforms like TV networks, social media sites, radio and search engines, so pharma should maintain its presence across these channels.
Mass media can be an effective strategy for generating awareness and getting patients into the doctor’s office, where pharma companies can follow up with targeted digital media; Data from Phreesia’s third-party measurement partners shows that patients exposed to clinically relevant content at the point of care are 8.3 times more likely to get on therapy. By meeting patients where they are with tailored and creative educational tools and resources, marketers can help increase rates of diagnosis and treatment for underserved populations.