Columbus, OH — It takes a lot of bravery to be honest about health and healthcare. Courage to speak frankly about the scariest parts of it – to talk about the fears you wish you didn’t have. Strength to acknowledge the aspects that simply seem unfair.

Trying to empathize with those incredibly human emotions and experiences in healthcare marketing can be really challenging. But, four brands we’re watching have found intriguing ways to have more honest conversations about health:

Sanofi’s Diabetes Co-Stars

Diabetes Co-Stars was launched in 2010 to help people understand the critical role the encouragement of friends and family plays in helping someone successfully manage diabetes. The original documentary the team launched this year took the program  to a whole new level.

Strength in Numbers,” was produced by actress Elizabeth Perkins and her “co-star” and husband Julio Macat. It features her diabetes story as well as two other personal stories from the 2012 Diabetes Co-Stars casting call contest – best friends Amanda Bauer and Anne Casey from New York, and father-daughter duo Eugenio and Naiomi Rivera from Texas.

Perkins was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in 2005. The first year was a really hard one for her. It was only with the help of Macat that she was able to figure out how to manage it. “When I was diagnosed, the first year I was sort of hiding it. ‘Everything’s fine’,” she said. “You know it was really him who said, ‘It’s not fine. I can tell that you’re really struggling and we need to get this out in the open. We actually sat down with the kids and said, ‘This is Type 1 Diabetes’ and it became a family affair.

Today, Perkins is in control of her blood sugar. In the documentary you can see the difference that the right experience created for her. Instead of being alone in a scary new system, she got help that “makes me feel safe.” So did the other co-stars.


CDC’s Testing Makes Us Stronger

I remember reading Newsweek magazine in the 80s, back when it-could-happen-to-you awareness was such a critical part of slowing the HIV epidemic. The article had pictures of eight people – seven white, most women. A mix that wasn’t at all reflective of actual risk. In making HIV seem like everyone’s disease, they downplayed the heightened risk that some populations really had.

Although infection rates are now holding steady across all age and ethnic groups, there is still heightened risk for some. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control recently reported that African Americans remain “disproportionately affected by HIV infection” with an infection rate of just under eight times that of whites. The risk is even greater for gay and bisexual black men. The CDC’s Testing Makes Us Stronger website says, “gay and bisexual men are the population most affected by HIV in the U.S. Black gay and bisexual men are getting hit particularly hard by the epidemic. Studies in major cities have found that, in those cities, nearly one in three black gay and bisexual men is infected with HIV, and the majority (59%) don’t even know it because they’ve never been tested or aren’t testing enough.”

That was the inspiration for Testing Makes Us Stronger – a practical call to action that’s as much about the community as the individual. The campaign encourages gay and bisexual black men to know their status to protect their partners.

Interestingly, the CDC’s call to women is a little different: “Take Charge. Take the Test.” But it has a similar community angle – telling women that knowing their status can help them care for themselves and their families


Shionogi Finding the Words

Osphena is a product in a challenging category: dyspareunia or painful post-menopausal sex, part of a larger condition called vulvular and vaginal atrophy. As you can imagine, that’s a tough conversation to start with a doctor. So, Shinogi has been going broad since their February launch – contacting tens of thousands of doctors who deal with every aspect of women’s health. is the brand’s first consumer launch. It features actress Virginia Madsen, best known for her role as Maya in the hit movie Sideways, and OB/GYN Ricki Pollycove talking very openly about the condition. Pollycove particularly gives readers the words to use to start the conversation with a doctor – or even a loved one.

One of the interesting features on the site is “Find Your Voice Through Pictures.” It encourages women who are having a hard time talking about painful intercourse to use the gallery of pictures to express themselves and feel like part of a community of women like them.


I Did This With Idis

Idis, headquartered in the UK, collected a series of human stories of hope and survival from around the world. Stories powered by the connections they made.

Idis works in an incredibly emotionally challenging field – Managed Access Programs, or sourcing hard-to-access drugs for patients who have unmet medical needs, for people who are often desperate, looking for ways to find a drug that simply isn’t available. For the doctors and pharmacists who advocate for these patients, Idis is their glimmer of hope.

Posted by: Leigh Householder

Finds from: Eric Davis and Kathryn Bernish-Fisher

About the Author:

As Managing Director of Innovation and Insights for Syneos Health Communications, Leigh is responsible for building and scaling a global team of healthcare experts who together help life science leaders better understand the complex lives, influences and expectations of their customers. Specifically, they uncover actionable insights that fuel empathy and creativity; lead co-creation events that let marketers learn from peers, trends, and new possibilities; and help clients identify the most valuable and useful new customer experiences to create.

Leigh has worked with Fortune 1000 companies to craft their digital, mobile, social and CRM strategies for nearly 20 years.She’s worked for category-leading agencies in retail, public affairs, B2B technology, and higher education. Prior to moving to Syneos Health Communications, she held several leadership roles at our largest agency, GSW.  There, she founded an innovation practice fueled by the zeitgeist and spearheaded digital and innovation thinking across the business.

Leigh has taken a special interest in complex healthcare products that can change lives in meaningful ways. She was recently a strategic lead on the 3rd largest launch in pharmaceutical history: Tecfidera. Before that she had keys roles with Eli Lilly Oncology, Abbott Nutrition, Amgen Cardiovascular, and Eli Lilly Diabetes.

A critical part of Leigh’s work is trends and new ideas. Every year, she convenes a group of trend watchers from across our global network to identify the shifts most critical to healthcare marketers. This year, she led over 250 experts to experts to focus on the most important changes in the commercial, consumer, marketing, digital and healthcare landscapes. (See reports at

Leigh is a sought-after writer and speaker. Recognized as one of the most inspiring people in the pharmaceutical industry by PharmaVoice and Top 10 Innovation Catalysts of 2017 by MM&M, Leigh also was recognized  as a Rising Star by the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association (HBA) for her overt passion, industry thought leadership and significant contributions in new business, strategy and mentoring.