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Don’t Overlook Critical Consumer-Generated Health Conversations

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We've talked before about how many women serve as their family's "Chief Medical Officer" — making primary health care decisions not only for themselves, but also for their partners and/or their children.

But where do those de facto CMOs go for information? How are their ideas and preferences shaped? Moreover, who is shaping them?

It turns out that one of the single biggest influencers of women's health and fitness impressions is other women. And social media platforms have become an increasingly important arena for women to generate and engage in health and fitness discussions.

How are social media platforms empowering women's health discussions?

As recently as 50 years ago, most women's health discussions took place in hushed tones, between close friends. Many women were made to feel ashamed about their health needs and about their bodies.

Fortunately, our culture has made great steps forward. Indeed, rather than being relegated to afterthought status in the medical community, women's health — approached from a more holistic point-of-view than the traditionally narrow confines of gynecology and obstetrics — has become its own specialty.

And women are beginning to feel empowered enough to talk about their health and fitness needs in public. Many women now view social media as a safe place in which they can openly and freely discuss their health and fitness concerns.

Those concerns aren't limited to body image and beauty — many women use social media to seek information about prevention and treatment of disease, to get recommendations about providers or facilities, to find support care and more.

This means that, for organizations looking to increase patient engagement and realize returns on their medical marketing investments, fostering women's social media-based health discussions is a must. When consumers are generating their own health discussions, the industry should take notice.

But what tone should patient engagements take?

Naturally, individuals will react to various tones in a variety of ways; psychographic segmentation can help you to drill down and figure out how to reach whom you want to reach.

But if there is a generality we could infer from social media trends right now, it's that many women appreciate a positive, forward-looking tone when it comes to discussing health and fitness. A recent positive trend on Twitter and Facebook, for example, has been #TakeBackPostpartum.

Postpartum body changes are a sensitive subject. Childbirth often results in secondary conditions that must be treated (e.g., incontinence, chronic pain, depression); moreover, negative psychological factors (embarrassment over body changes or difficulty in adjusting to new parenthood) can adversely affect quality of life for some women.

#TakeBackPostPartum attempts to address those issues by taking a positive view of changes. Under the hash tag, women post pictures that celebrate scars, stretch marks and other body changes as markers of achievement. As one blogger put it, "Those marks prove that I was blessed enough to carry my babies and that flabby tummy means I worked hard to lose what weight I could… They aren't scars ladies, they're stripes and you've earned them."

Given the resonance this particular campaign has engendered over social media, one must naturally wonder if a similar tone could be employed to motivate women who need, for example, ongoing cardiac or cancer care. We've seen evidence of success in such areas.

Breast cancer awareness, for example, is now a top trending topic every October. The messaging isn't gloom and doom, either — it's chock full of survivor images, encouragements to have regular screening and pictures of Komen Foundation-sponsored walks and fundraisers. Social media users change their profile pictures to pink awareness ribbons. They post mobile mammogram schedules.

Certainly, our patient engagement efforts regarding other women's health care issues could employ similar motifs: Positive social media messaging could be used to motivate some women to spur recalcitrant partners in adhering to treatment regimens or to encourage proper vaccination and childhood nutrition. The possibilities are endless.

Psychographic Segmentation and its Practical Application in Patient Engagement and Behavior Change

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