public health

We’re living in an era of unprecedented access to information. Yet, this brings unprecedented challenges, particularly when it comes to health. The increase of false health information has eroded public trust, which is the bedrock of good relations and practices in healthcare. Health information needs to be authentic and trustworthy, with the source of the information clear. So how can we, as healthcare communicators, fight back against misinformation?

The Impact of Health Misinformation

Poorer Personal Health Outcomes: Misinformation can lead to delayed or avoided medical care. It can also lead to a misunderstanding of risk factors, encouraging harmful behaviours.

Risks to Public Health: Misinformation isn’t just a personal matter; it poses significant risks to wider communities. For instance, vaccine misinformation has fuelled the resurgence of preventable diseases like whooping cough and measles.

Financial Strain on Healthcare Systems: The ripple effect extends to healthcare systems, with misinformation driving up costs. Preventable conditions, complications from delayed treatments and managing public health crises all contribute to ballooning expenses.

Tackling Health Misinformation

Empowerment through Education: Improving health literacy is a cornerstone of tackling misinformation. By educating patients and the general public to discern credible health information, we can empower them to make informed decisions about their health.

Transparency is Key: Pharmaceutical companies and healthcare providers must prioritise transparency. This means clearly communicating treatment benefits and risks, addressing concerns openly, and providing evidence-based information to rebuild trust.

Harnessing Technology: While technology can spread misinformation, it also holds the key combatting it. Digital tools can help to disseminate accurate information, and tech companies, including social media, can help to flag or remove false content.

Community Engagement: Trust-building within communities is vital. Engaging with leaders, influencers and organisations helps to share accurate information tailored to specific communities, fostering understanding and confidence. Tailoring messages to specific communities ensures they resonate and are more likely to be accepted.

Becoming a Trusted Information Creator

As proud health information creators and communicators, it’s our responsibility to ensure the information we produce is accurate, accessible, and evidence based. At Aurora, our rigorous approach to creating health information has earned recognition from the Patient Information Forum (PIF) through the PIF TICK – the UK’s only assessed quality mark for print and online health and care information.

The PIF launched the PIF TICK in May 2020. In July 2021, PIF launched the website to raise awareness of PIF TICK accredited members and help people find trusted health information. The site also includes guides on topics including spotting false health information and understanding evidence.

Aurora is one of the first healthcare communications agencies to receive accreditation with the PIF TICK, joining over 140 organizations including NHS trusts, patient advocacy groups, pharmaceutical companies, and individual health content creators. Our adherence to the 10 key criteria ensures that any health information we create on behalf of our clients can bear the PIF TICK, providing assurance to patients and the public that it meets the highest standards.

By fostering trust, transparency, and promoting health literacy, we empower individuals to make informed health decisions, leading to better outcomes for all.

Argentina has three major strengths when considering clinical research: it has the ANMAT[1], a pioneering entity that sets a solid regulatory framework for conducting high-quality research; it has excellent healthcare professionals and increasingly professionalized centers, and finally, amidst a health system in crisis, there is a significant increase in patients’ interest in participating in clinical trials, which allows them to receive excellent healthcare,” said Dr. Federico Pérez Manghi, a clinician specializing in Nutrition and Diabetes and president of theCINME (Center for Metabolic Research) in Buenos Aires.   

Clinical research has grown exponentially both in Argentina and throughout Latin America. According to data from the Argentine associations that connect clinical research organizations and multinational pharmaceutical companies (CAOIC and CAEME), between 2017 and 2021, the number of clinical trials conducted in the country increased by 79%. The specific improvements established by ANMAT for the approval processes, the digitalization of paperwork, and the prestige of the medical community are the main reasons for this growth in the international participation of medical trials. Clinical research encompasses all activities aimed at determining the efficacy, safety and quality of drugs, treatments, detection, diagnosis and prevention mechanisms. This has a profound impact not only on patients and the health system as a whole but also on the country’s economy.

In Argentina, as in the rest of the region and other countries around the world, the 2020 pandemic was a before-and-after moment for clinical research. The urgent need for a COVID-19 vaccine promoted information and awareness about clinical trials.

“Before 2020, when I invited a patient to participate in a clinical trial, I had to explain to them what it was about and debunk many misconceptions. Today, this has changed. I like telling my patients that at the beginning of the 20th century, life expectancy was only 40 years. Now, thanks to clinical research and the advancements made, the global average life expectancy has doubled,” Dr.Pérez Manghi said.

Dr. Georgina Sposetti, an Argentinian clinician and diabetologist, agrees with him. She is the founder of Un ensayo para mí (A Trial for Me), an innovative platform in Latin America, that connects doctors, researchers, and patients in a safe, reliable and controlled environment. The goal is to promote information about ongoing clinical trials and ensure access to them.

“The growth was exponential after 2020. The vaccine trials during the pandemic helped a lot. From 2021 on, the platform has grown by about 120-150% each year. When we post a clinical trial for a disease, the number of patients who enter and ask is incredible,” Dr.Sposetti said.

Dr. Sposetti created the platform based on her personal experience. In 2013, she was diagnosed with Lewis-Sumner syndrome, a rare nervous system disorder for which there was no treatment available at the time. Her first impulse was to go online and volunteer for a clinical trial.

“During my own pursuit, I realized that for anyone lacking technical knowledge or English, having a rare disease or cancer and wanting to know about ongoing research was a real mission impossible,” Sposetti added.Un ensayo para mí (A Trial for Me) was recognized in 2021 as a pioneer in the region by The Lancet Oncology, and is now active in eight Latin American countries, serving as a space for direct communication with people and working to democratize information.

The profile of Latin patients in particular is also key when considering clinical research. “Latin American patients like having regular contact with their doctor and want to attend the medical center. This leads to a significantly lower dropout rate in clinical trials compared to Anglo Saxon countries. They get more involved and there’s higher adherence,” noted Dr. Pérez Manghi.

Even so, there is still plenty to work on as less than 5% of the world’s total clinical research is conducted in Latin America. The main challenge is generating more data, a subject that is still pending in the region. “Argentina is already addressing this issue by investing heavily in technology. An example of this, is the development of Alpha Clinical Research, a platform of digital medical record that we are implementing in CINME”, concluded Pérez Manghi. 

[1] ANMAT: Administración Nacional de Medicamentos, Alimentos y Tecnología Médica – National Administration of Drugs, Food and Medical Devices.

Today, Ricardo Bernal of GLOBALHealthPR Mexico partner PRP gives us a look at how to engage multiple stakeholders and the public on an important health issue – teenage pregnancy.

In Mexico, one in two sexually active females aged 12 to 19 is pregnant. This forever alters these young women’s lives as well as the dynamics of their families. Among many issues they face, pregnant teens risk dropping out of school, increases in poverty levels, perpetual low-income jobs and, in most cases, an increased possibility of getting pregnant again in the following years.

[Read more…] about Communicating a Key Health Issue in Mexico

Deadly, Communicable Disease Helps Shrink the World

New York Times editorial writers warned on November 25 that the West African nation of Mali may likely become the next target for a widespread, life-threatening Ebola virus outbreak. The editorial reported totals of more than 15,000 people made sick by the virus thus far, killing 5,400 with most of the victims in West Africa. That number has grown since to include over 18,000 diagnosed and almost 7,000 killed.

Examples of sensationalized Ebola headlines seen in the United States
Examples of sensationalized Ebola headlines seen in the United States. Images: CNN, USA Today

As a U.S.-based, professional health care communicator, like most other Americans, I was certainly aware of the outbreak of deaths in West Africa, and was concerned for the sake of that regional population, but not really from the standpoint of any potential risk to Americans.

But when U.S. media broke the news of the first American to die from Ebola on U.S. soil, I couldn’t help wonder whether our sensational reporting bordering on panic was shared elsewhere in the world. Also, is the drama in the media overdone or justified?

I queried our GLOBALHealthPR agency partners in other countries affected by the virus such as Spain and the United Kingdom, as well as countries that at the time weren’t directly involved at the time, including Portugal, Argentina, Japan, and Singapore; to understand how local authorities and media were addressing Ebola. What was being done and reported, and what insights can we glean? [Read more…] about A Global Media Scan of the Ebola Outbreak

baby hatch
A baby hatch used in a Rome hospital

Today’s post comes to us from Kirsten Bruce of GLOBALHealthPR Australia partner, VIVA! Communications. The views expressed herein are those of the author.

In the wake of two tragic incidents involving the abandonment of unwanted newborn babies in Sydney, Australian authorities are considering introducing ‘baby hatches’, a safe haven where people (typically mothers) can bring their unwanted babies and leave them anonymously, predominantly for adoption. [Read more…] about Australian ‘Baby Hatches’ a Potential Solution to Abandonment

Today’s post comes to us from Fabíola Capalbo, Account Executive at GLOBALHealthPR Brazil partner, Tino Comunicação.

Por Dentro da Camisinha 2 - Credito Danilo Cervan BAs the only communications agency in Brazil dedicated exclusively to healthcare and quality of life, we strongly believe in the importance of expanding projects and partnerships to promote healthy behaviors.

One of these proud partnerships promotes sexual health and encourages positive behaviors among Brazilian youth. [Read more…] about Sex Education in Brazil: The Right To A Healthy Life