Having worked in the healthcare communications space for over 12 years, I have been involved in or witnessed some amazing work done by healthcare advocacy groups across many different disease areas. The primary purpose of this work is to generate awareness and support for their organisation, connect patients and families who are living with the same condition – and to encourage financial donations to help the organisation to spread its message further.
Much has been said in the past about how some disease states or health issues get more attention than others, such as cancer and diabetes. Even within the cancer space itself; many feel the more high profile cancers, like breast cancer, get greater media and financial support than other, lesser known cancers, such as glioblastoma.
Regardless of how big or small these health advocacy groups are, or how much or little attention and support they get; the importance of the work they are doing cannot be underestimated. They provide a voice for the people living with illness, support for their families and most importantly of all, empathy and understanding for the people who need it most.
I sit on the Executive Committee of the Australian Thyroid Foundation (ATF). Although one in seven Australians are affected by a thyroid disorder, we have found it extremely difficult to generate widespread awareness of the condition or our organisation. This may be partly due to the fact that all of our Executive Committee volunteer their time while also juggling full-time jobs or looking after families, meaning we can’t always be 100% focused on the task at hand. We celebrated our 20th Anniversary this year and recently held our inaugural fundraising Gala Ball, which we hope will help us reach even more people around Australia.
The ATF will continue to strive to get our message heard, but it got me thinking about what successful healthcare advocacy groups have done well that we (or others) could learn from. Below are my top five learnings.
- A clear purpose: it’s important to be able to articulate your organisation’s primary purpose and objective so people understand where their support is going. Is it to provide member services, fund healthcare solutions, drive research, or lobby decision makers for change? If people understand and buy into this purpose, they will be more willing to get on board.
- High-profile ambassador/s: while it may not always be possible, being able to identify and connect with a high-profile Australian (or international celebrity) who understands the experiences of people living with a particular condition can be very powerful. Whether it is themselves that are affected, or a family member or friend – having a recognisable face or name to attach to the organisation can go a long way in driving media attention and support.
- Passionate clinicians or experts: an expert who can explain the challenges of the illness, treatment options and demonstrate empathy for the patient builds credibility. They must be willing to go out in the media, undertake member information sessions and provide advice and support to the organisation.
- Engaged and mobilised membership base: having an engaged group of members who are mobilised and active in advocating for the organisation is key. Rallying this mobilised group to raise awareness and support then becomes an easy ask, as they are often willing to do whatever they can to help.
- Corporate sponsorship: although it may not always be seen as a priority, receiving financial support from corporate sponsors enables organisations to reach more people and provide support services that are in need.
So rather than thinking that some groups get more attention than others, remember – there is plenty of charitable love to go around and every group is as equally deserving!
Written by Tania Jayesuria, Practice Director – Ogilvy PR Health