Take A Self-Care Approach To Healthcare Articles

Effective self-care – both physical and mental – is proven to relieve pressure on health services, save tax payers money and achieves faster outcomes than waiting to see a medical professional. It reduces unnecessary prescriptions of pharmaceuticals and antibiotics, gives consumers a sense of control and choice, and introduces new hobbies –  such as exercise – into people’s lifestyles. Yet every year millions of GP appointments and visits to hospital are for self-treatable conditions.

The benefits of self-care are conceptually apparent to governments, medical professionals and consumers. However, the challenge is to turn the self-care concept into action which results in improved health. Despite 67 per cent of GPs believing that supporting more patients to self-care would help reduce their workload, just 42 per cent of GP practices actually did so.

Good Information Increases Self-Care

The starting point must be improving consumers’ use of available information

For example, one of the most successful contributions to increasing self-care in the UK has been the development of the NHS medical encyclopedia and it’s Behind The Headlines fact checking articles. These projects demonstrate that providing accurate, accessible, evidenced content that informs consumers and encourages them to take positive action can increase effective self-care.

Healthcare brands must learn these lessons too. It’s not only good for the nation’s health, it’s good for their bottom line.

Most of the recommendations for what to include and how to write a good article are industry agnostic. However, there are some important additional considerations and actions for any brand associating itself with health benefits. These aren’t just focused on the pharmaceutical, over-the-counter or traditional herbal medicine sectors. Hygiene, nutrition and food supplements, home and work environments, technology and fitness brands have genuine health claims that should be communicated.

The most important objective of any health care communications must be to improve the health and wellbeing of consumers.

Don’t Get It Wrong

There are numerous regulatory requirements that apply to making health claims in marketing materials, including articles. A good production department like Hurst’s Trusted Media Studio will double check all submitted copy for compliance with the ASA’s CAP code and the media title’s editorial and advertising guidelines. However, every brand bears full responsibility to ensure compliance with the law, the Advertising Standards Authority as well as the regulatory codes covering their specific industry, whether PAGB, Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry codes or other such code

Most importantly, prescription only medicines must not be promoted directly to the public. A pharmaceutical brand can raise awareness of a condition, and encourage consumers to talk to a doctor about their experience of that condition. However, they must never promote or encourage consumers to request a specific prescription-only medicine.

Avoid Self-Diagnosis

Whilst encouraging users to seek good information is important, it’s extremely important not to encourage consumers to make an erroneous self-diagnosis.

Certain combinations of symptoms could be consistent with numerous conditions other than those for which the brand can help. If consumers make a wrong self-diagnosis it could be as serious as putting them in extreme danger, or simply encourage them to consider your product a waste of money when it doesn’t work for them. If the symptoms that your brand can treat could arise from more than one cause, ensure your article makes clear that your product is for people who have already received a medical diagnosis for the specific condition. If there is a risk of any uncertainty about the causes of symptoms, your article should encourage consumers to speak to their doctor or pharmacist.

Don’t Sell Snake Oil

Consumers have been warned so much about the dangers of unreliable information and untested medications that it has encouraged levels of scepticism that are barriers to self-care. Hence it’s extremely important to encourage rational use of healthcare products.

Write objectively. Don’t exaggerate the benefits. Be realistic. Don’t offer guarantees. Don’t claim there are no side effects. Aim to manage consumers’ expectations of the results the average user should expect. Whilst case studies and testimonials are encouraged and helpful, don’t only use examples of people who achieved the most outstanding results.

The greater depth that articles offer over advertisements is a huge opportunity to gain the trust of readers. It’s important not to betray that trust.

Prove It

People aren’t stupid. They now look for strong evidence about health claims. They’re often encouraged by health professionals to read about health and medicine from reliable sources. Hence including evidence for health claims in your article will reassure consumers they can take action. That said, it’s often difficult to include all the evidence supporting the health benefits of any particular product or service. So put the evidence and any references on your website. In your article, direct consumers to your website so they can read more. Be transparent.

If you’ve got awards, licenses or authorisation from official, recognisable organisations, make sure you include them in the article or images which accompany the copy. Don’t minimise what you have achieved to date or the accreditations you have received.

Any time you are promoting traditional herbal medicines you must make it clear in the article that the evidence for its effectiveness is exclusively based on long-standing use as a traditional remedy for at least thirty years. Fifteen of those years must have been use within the European Union.

Use Simple Language

Health can be such an academic, scientific and data driven subject that presenting the information for consumers can be a challenge. That’s why content professionals, such as journalists, exist. The Daily Mail, for example, hires some of the best science writers who can turn academic articles into consumer content. They are taught to be robust in their reporting – interrogating product and service claims – but also to write in a way that’s of appeal to their audience.

It’s best to draft your article in an accessible fashion. Avoid jargon. The technical, medical and clinical terms used every day at your workplace will not necessarily be known by your consumers.

One of the best ways to make health articles relatable is to include personal accounts of previous consumers.

Images help

It’s very common for brands to show before-and-after pictures of a patient using a product or service.

Since you cannot guarantee results, do not include images showing the complete eradication of the condition you’re treating. Also don’t use images of a more serious condition than the product or service can handle. If you over promise and under deliver, you will disappoint your users and dissuade them from future custom.

Approach Your Audience

Health, diet and fitness articles were once of interest to niche audiences. Now the appeal for content about both mental and physical health is widespread, especially amongst the most affluent and intelligent consumers.

However the motivating factors driving people to improve or maintain their health are many and various. Some want a solution to a particular health concern they’re currently experiencing. Others want to improve their appearance. Mental and emotional well-being is the primary concern of an increasing number of consumers.

Women are by far the main recipients and readers of consumer health media. Women respond well to health articles which engage their empathy – those that feature personal testimonials, case studies and human interest. Aesthetic messages still appeal more to women than men.

It remains harder to communicate with men about their health than women, although it’s getting easier. Men are becoming more interested in their appearance and the relationship between health and looking good. They are increasingly recognising how physical health improves their mental health. Men also respond well to scientific and technological approaches to addressing their health concerns.

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