GCI Health’s HealthiHer Movement Encourages Women to Focus on their Own Health

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up over 60% of the PR industry and jobs within the marketing. The PR industry is ranked among the most stressful jobs in the United States. Wendy Lund, CEO of GCI Health, a national integrated healthcare communications agency, discusses the latest survey findings from the HealthiHer movement, showcasing women aged 30 to 60 who work in the communications and healthcare marketing industry, to find out why self-care often falls to the bottom of the to-do list.  

Wendy joined GCI Health as CEO in 2010 and is responsible for setting and carrying out a vision for the agency. With almost 30 years of healthcare communications and marketing experience, she puts patients at the center of everything she does. She has worked with a diverse group of pharmaceutical, biotech, medical technology companies globally and in the United States; on a corporate level and across a variety of disease categories from the most serious and rare diseases to those affecting millions of consumers (i.e. heart disease, cancer and diabetes). She thrives on partnering with clients to solve the most difficult communications challenges they face. Wendy was named to the MM&M Hall of Femme in 2018, MM&M/PR Week’s Top 50 Health Influencers in 2016 and 2017, PRWeek’s True Women Champions of PR in 2016, was inducted into the 2016 and 2017 PR News Class of Top Women in PR and was named as a finalist of the 2016 PRWeek’s Agency Professional of the Year.


Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host Neal Howard, glad that you could join us here again on the program. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up over 60% of the PR industry and jobs within the marketing, healthcare marketing and PR communications, industries are ranked as some of the most stressful jobs in the country. Our guest today is Wendy Lund, CEO of GCI Health and she’s joining us on the program to talk about some of the latest survey findings from the HealthiHER movement that talks about women aged 30 to 60 who work in these industries – communications and healthcare marketing – to find out why taking care of themselves often falls to the bottom of the to-do list. Welcome to the program, thank you for joining us today Wendy.

Wendy Lund: Thank you so much, it’s so nice to be here.

Neal: Just a brief background about yourself. You’re CEO of GCI Health, what type of company is GCI Health?

Wendy: Well thank you, GCI Health it’s a fully integrated communications firm dedicated to really working across the entire healthcare spectrum. So we work on all kinds of different healthcare efforts, mostly aimed at educating patients, physicians, supporting physician needs, etc.

Neal: Now I mentioned this movement, the HealthiHER Movement, talk about this movement.  How long has it been in existence? How did it begin?

Wendy: Great. I’m so happy to talk about this, thank you. So it began about a year and a half ago, I was actually sitting in a Starbucks where I live in New Jersey and ruminating about the fact that women who specifically kind of entering menopause – 50 plus, 45 plus – were kind of left with no information because of the different changes that had happened in the healthcare space around hormone replacement therapy etc. And it just seemed as a woman sort of in this age group that my friends and I were just kind of left with very little so as I’m sitting there ruminating at Starbucks on a Sunday morning, my very good friend Beth Battaglino who’s the CEO of Healthy Women which is the world’s largest online resource for women’s health came in her running outfit, sort of not expecting to see me and I like grabbed her online and said “Beth, I am obsessed with the fact that women who are 45-50 have no information on menopause. What can we do about this?” And she said that she had been having a similar thought to herself but that actually there are women far beyond the 45 plus range that we need to think about. Sort of these women in the middle aged around 30 to 65, women who are very much focused on their families, focused on their work, focused basically on everything but themselves. So she and I joined hands and we decided “Let’s go out and let’s conduct some research to see if our hypothesis is true.” We actually were very very happy to be approached by Redbook Magazine which is an iconic magazine focusing on women and they joined forces with us as well and we conducted extensive research preliminary to just really look at this women. We have a lot of in-house resources at GCI Health where we really looked at women in their 40s, their 50s, younger women who are these chief health decision-makers and their families. We understood that they like to be in control, they’re resourceful, they’re self-reliant and we’ve also found through the research we did that this responsibility can be really overwhelming and the majority of the women that we looked at agree that there’s no matter how they try, they never seem to have enough time to do all the things they need to and so that leads to the fact that they could be missing their mammograms, their yearly pap smears, their yearly exams, not getting blood tests and certainly putting themselves to the bottom of the list. And if we are going to be a healthy nation which is led by healthy women, we need to have healthy women. So we went out and did the research survey with Redbook Magazine and we have some of the results that we got last summer.

Neal: It’s kind of an original spelling of the survey, HealthiHER, what’s behind the behind the logo?

Wendy: Yeah, so HealthiHER, so the I is in the Y, capitalizing HER and it was all about the fact the play on words that we wanted her to be healthier and so we wanted to kind of have that play on words to engage women online. We just wanted to create something catchy so that we could create a hashtag. So our hashtag i#BeHealthiHER and it kind of goes both ways but the campaign is healthy her but we could also use the verb and say ‘be healthier.’

Neal: Well as far as the findings from this healthiHER survey, what were some of those findings?

Wendy: So interestingly, it pretty much validated what we thought we were going to get back but we got such incredible feedback once we went online with it. So our first survey with Redbook Magazine was actually a survey of more than a thousand women and that survey revealed that over half of women or nearly half of women do not make time for themselves to focus on their health. That’s a lot of women, that’s just if you kind of extrapolate that out. What else we found were that 80% of women, they just feel like they can’t delegate their family’s healthcare so the kids go to the doctor, they’re going with them. Forty percent felt that you know delegating that healthcare would be very complicated and 65 percent of them said ‘This is really stressful.’ One of the interesting things that came out of the survey that I really was very kind of taken aback by was that women felt that their health around their reproductive health, women go to the gynecologist every year, they felt that was something that was under control that they didn’t really need to worry about but the things that they did worry about were more their general health. Things around cancer, heart disease other things that they’re not able to pay as close attention to and then another astounding fact was that 90% of these women described their stress levels as moderate to high and 40% of them had been diagnosed with anxiety or depression. So certainly an area that we need to focus more on as a country because this is something that’s sort of being swept under the rug. Whether people don’t like to talk about it or externally, it may still have some stigma attached to it, but we did find that there’s a high level of stress going on among women in this country.

Neal: I don’t know. Do you think that maybe once you hit a certain age, you’re not really worried about your reproductive health as opposed to some of the other things like you said cancer, things of that nature? Did you find that there was a big gap between seeking reproductive health information between women younger than the group surveyed?

Wendy: Yeah, I mean that’s a good point. I think where we really focused on was digging deeper into women who had been diagnosed with health conditions. So women who had been diagnosed with cancer, diabetes, depression who would be in this age group and we found that whether they were diagnosed with this condition or not, the majority of them were just not most likely to make time for themselves to focus on their health. So this really helps bring us into action and inspired us to really want to activate and inspire women to take better care of themselves and prioritize their own care.

Neal: What is it about healthcare communications industry, the PR industry – are they unique as far as the stress levels and causing some of these problems that you talked about in the survey of these women diagnosed? Is it something about those particular industries?

Wendy: Yes, so interesting that you brought that up. So our first survey was really focused on the general population and we did it in conjunction with Redbook. Then we decided “Let’s look at different cohorts of professions” and look at “Are women who are nurses more likely to take care of themselves?” That’s an interesting juxtapose, right? Are women who are in our industry more likely to take care of themselves? So we decided to focus on our industry because we wanted to make a difference with women who are in the communications field, women who are in healthcare marketing and even our own staff. And to your point, this is an industry that is very high at the stress levels if you look at sort of there’s been some surveys done where you look at different industries and it’s actually shown communications and PR to be up there in terms of stress levels by being a pilot so it’s just a very very busy dynamic environment healthcare is always changing so you just never really know what one day is going to bring. And of course when you’re in a client service business, you’re always on track to do whatever you can to  support those clients so it’s sort of like a triple play into “Why this may be a more stressful type of business?” And as we talked about, women are more likely to work in this industry. It’s become, many more women over the last ten to fifteen years and women are entering now into more management jobs which are also much more stressful, or as stressful I should say.

Neal: Are employers on board? Are employers understanding some of these factors and taking steps to either minimize or alleviate some of the stressors?

Wendy: I think that they may be. I think that’s something we want to dig deeper into in 2019. We just talked about this yesterday how we would love to play a role in helping to lower stress and provide really valid stress techniques to help people think about their day-to-day work and how they’re working and how they can better manage that stress or work with employers across America to work internally to look at this as an issue that at the end of the day, if employers look at this as an issue and if they have a healthy workforce, they’re going to have a much more productive, successful outcome. So this is a big area for us to focus on at 2019. So our two key targets in 2019 are to work with companies, whether they’re large healthcare companies or other communications firms to see how we can band together to do more and to provide that support in the workplace and then also looking at nonprofit organizations who might be willing to take this on in conjunction with us in Healthy Women to have a bigger impact among women in this country,

Neal: So in closing, what advice do you have to women individually? Not just to the organizations or to the women that are in these particular industries but in general in that age group as far as the findings from the survey is concerned?

Wendy: I think there’s two things. One is that women need to take small steps to help themselves this is not something that women are going to make huge changes about in terms of their self-care and their health but they need to take it seriously they need to schedule those appointments and get their mammograms and get their paps and get their various exams done  and make that make themselves a priority and I think women need to have those mind sets where they say “You know what, today I’m making myself a priority. I’m going to make the appointment. I’m going to go do it” and not wait and not what something else come in between. And then the second thing would be to encourage them to go to the Facebook page and actually make sure that they go on because there are so many amazing tips on the HealthiHer Facebook page and I think we’ve had such incredible feedback from the page and we want to keep adding to it because one of the things that we’ve loved about this whole effort is that whenever we go in a room with women, wherever we go up on the Facebook page, women are sharing their experiences and their tips and that helps that many more women be healthy so

hoping that women in 2019 will have a focus on being healthier.

Neal:  Is there a website where our listeners can go as well and learn some additional information?

Wendy: Well they can certainly go on the healthywomen.org website but the real place to go is the Facebook page where if you like it, you’ll get all kinds of tips coming your way.

Neal: And would that be facebook.com/BeHealthiHER

Wendy:  If you go up and you just type in into Facebook ‘HealthiHER,’ it will come up.

Neal: Well thank you very much, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you for joining us today and taking the time Wendy Lund, CEO of GCI Health. Thank you for joining us today.

Wendy: Thank you so much, take care.

Neal: You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio and I’m your host Neal Howard. Transcripts and audio of this program are available at hpr.fm and healthprofessionalradio.com.au

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