Featured in the May Issue of Meisose Publicidade
Q: In Portugal there is a lot of pressure of the government to cut the budget of health and medicines. What response should take brands and companies to this situation?
Companies should fight the misperception that pharmaceutical products are the chief health care “budget busters.” They should fight this fight with data. Pharmaceutical products have always ranked among the most cost-effective health care solutions. Decision-makers should honestly compare the cost of surgery or disability or lost productivity due to the poor treatment of disease, with the cost of prevention or optimal treatment. They will find that medications are, in general, much more cost-effective. Governments should not become penny-wise but pound-foolish. We’re about to learn the hard way in the US as we contend with the obesity crisis, and the resulting diabetes, heart disease and disability.
Q: Citizens have the idea that the health industry and medicine is a powerful lobby. Do you think this idea is correct? How can big companies do in order to change this idea?
In the U.S., politicians enjoy blaming lobbyists for the “special interests.” On close examination, however, who are these special interests? Pharma companies make up only part of the mix of organizations with great interest in promoting continued emphasis and favorable attitude of elected officials toward investment in health care. These other interests include disease and patient advocacy organizations, including rare diseases and the need for increased funding in medical research.
However, the real issue lurking behind global, public criticism of health industry is the relationship between providing and, what’s more, improving human health care with the fact that the drivers of health care innovation and delivery are for the most part, businesses. Is it ethical for a business to profit from creating and providing an innovation to prevent, cure or treat disease? Many people do not understand that a host of scientists and medical researchers and investors work hard and take risks every day toward improving lives, easing pain, promoting quality of life, and reducing mortality. We need the best minds, not lowest-cost minds to conquer Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and pancreatic cancer, for example. These risk takers require incentives. It’s economic gain, as unsavory as it sounds, remains the international currency of motivation.
Q: Legislation on health communication is very different around the world. What limitations are reasonable?
People deserve protections from unfounded or unproven health claims that are associated with products or procedures. There is little debate on that. By the same token, patients deserve to know about life-saving treatments as well as the best quality care possible. The question comes down to value, access to medication and education.
In the U.S., direct-to-consumer promotion of prescription products is still allowed, and I’m not aware of any serious legislation proposed to ban it. In most other countries, however, DTC is banned because it might create demand for products that the country’s health system cannot afford. What is the best way to gauge the value of health care? Is the best way to manage health care costs a ban on delivering information that communicates the best treatment for patients?
Q: In the network Global Health PR, which is the market that produces the best work in this area? Why?
At GHPR all of the affiliated countries do a great job promoting the best communication healthcare practices. We can develop international PR campaigns using the local expertise of countries from all continents. The best part is that all can contribute with different knowledge from digital healthcare to crises management. For example teaming up with Guess What from Portugal gave us the opportunity to best understand the culture and health care communications regulations of the pharmaceutical industry in this country. No longer can you export a global health public relations campaign to another country and expect that it will be effective or even lawful. Each of the GLOBALHealthPR partners is indigenous, in that they provide genuine, expert insights that cannot be synthesized by overseas networks who make assumptions or merely speak the same language.
Q: Marketing budgets in Europe are being cut. It’s happening the same in healthcare? Which are the dangers of these decisions?
When companies, health care or not, cut public relations budgets, whether they stem from corporate or marketing departments, they effectively are saying that organized, strategic communications and relationships with their audiences are not important. Relationships aren’t worth spending on. If they cut marketing communications or public relations, it’s the same as siphoning fuel from the tank of your automobile. How far do you want to drive?
I like the expression “nature abhors a vacuum.” The space left open by uncommunicative health care organizations will be taken up by other organizations competing for your business that recognize the importance and opportunities offered by managed public relations.