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Mind the gender gap: how marcomms can tackle gender health inequality

By Kesha Tansey and Emma Moss


The UK has been found to have the widest gender health gap in the G20 and the 12th largest globally.

Shameful and shocking, isn’t it?

Despite decades of talking about gender equality, change has been incremental and slow when it comes to health disparities. In fact, it was only this year that the first ever Women’s Health Strategy was published by the UK government.

The strategy was informed by a survey of 100,000 women that, together with some recent reports, revealed some distressing insight into the experiences of both cisgender and transgender women when accessing healthcare. For example:

  • Women are more likely to experience delays, misdiagnosis and poor treatment in conditions as diverse as cancer, heart disease, chronic pain and dementia. For example, there have been recent reports of heart attacks being dismissed as panic attacks, and the BHF reported that 50% of women experiencing a heart attack receive the wrong initial diagnosis and they are less likely to receive life-saving treatments
  • Women also report difficulties in accessing care, misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis and poor treatment when it comes to reproductive and gynaecological conditions. For example, over a third of women are prescribed antidepressants for menopause, and reports of pain due to underlying endometriosis is too often missed and dismissed as ‘part of being a woman’

Trans women, non-binary people, as well as trans people with gynaecological anatomy experience additional inequalities and are disproportionally impacted by poor mental health, with 73% reporting that they find it difficult to access mental health services commonly due to embarrassment, anxiety and having an unsupportive GP.

These disparities are largely rooted in the fact that the UK healthcare system is designed around cisgendered men, with men being the default patient in clinical practice and medical research. Therefore, when we think about women’s health, it shouldn’t just be about periods, menopause and gynaecological conditions, but rather the health of the whole woman. Only then can we begin to understand what the healthcare system should look like for women, how best to communicate with them and how best to support them.

The sheer scale of the task of closing the gender gap is huge, and while the Women’s Health Strategy will be vital in helping to tackle this, we can’t solely rely on the Department of Health and Social Care to address it, nor is it inclusive of trans women.

What can we do as marcomms professionals?
A great deal! However, the reality is that heart disease or menopause may not matter to you, until it happens to you or someone you care about. So, what can we do to ensure it matters to everyone, now?

At Evoke Mind+Matter, we believe health communications and marketing need a hard reset and, as an industry, we can play a huge role in bridging the gap. We’ve come up with six ways the industry can kickstart this change:

  1. Go far beyond ‘raising awareness’
    To enable change, we have to do more than simply provide facts, figures, and information. Our communications need to spark action to enable people to do something they haven’t done before. To create this change, we can use communications that signpost people to easy real-life solutions and help to establish habitual behaviours throughout the healthcare system (at Evoke Mind+Matter, we use our propriety behaviour change model CHANGE to help enable this).
  2. Put our gender equality goggles on
    Let’s create our own habits. Let’s start by viewing every brand challenge and every brief through a lens of gender equality. Ask ourselves those key questions; what are the differences in needs? What can this campaign do to shift the dial? How can I ensure the needs of women run throughout this programme? How would the style of comms differ depending on who you are talking too?
  3. Be disruptive
    Create narratives and dialogues that offer a fresh approach to approaching women’s health topics in order to cut through the noise. This might mean using humour to break down barriers, while avoiding euphemisms that distract from the seriousness of health issues.
  4. Make it mainstream
    Normalise the conversations by using tools that can amplify the conversation and make conversations mainstream. Using well-known spokespeople, patient influencers, social influencers and HCP influencers to ensure women’s health topics are represented across different channels, types of media and demographics.
  5. Bring HCPs along for the ride
    Create educational and supportive communications that ensure HCPs are trained appropriately in the needs of both cisgender and transgender women, and in strategies to help overcome barriers. Because to make real change for women accessing healthcare, HCPs must be supported to extend this shift in comms to their interactions with patients.
  6. Listen
    Build safe, inclusive spaces and places for all women to talk about the realities of their experiences of health – both internally in our work places and externally through our campaigns and meaningful communications. Ensure we implement or reflect what we hear in our work to create meaningful communications that resonate. At Evoke, our mantra is to ‘Make Health More Human’ and this starts with listening to the people and patients we serve first.

But this is just the beginning for us. We are committed to supporting this change, both within our organisation and beyond. From employee welfare changes to implementing creative guidelines and creating a health equity taskforce, this change is the reality for us.

However, there is so much more to be done. We will continue to challenge ourselves to ensure gender equality is at the heart of all we do.

Will you?

Keep an eye out for our future series where we will dive more deeply into specific areas of women’s health.

Kesha Tansey is a Director and Emma Moss is a Strategist at health marcomms agency Evoke Mind+Matter

Kesha Tansey is a Director and Emma Moss is a Strategist at health marcomms agency Evoke Mind+Matter

22nd December 2022

From: Marketing


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