TBWA\WorldHealth is raising awareness for Black health, starting with its employees.
The agency began a Black health initiative Wednesday. It’s urging people to share their experience as a Black patient with #BlackHealthNow. Going forward, TBWA\WorldHealth will amplify these stories to raise awareness for the health disparities that Black patients face.
“We felt that because we are a healthcare agency, it is the type of initiative that fits well with our essence,” said Wallye Holloway, associate managing partner at the agency. “From colleagues in our organization to celebrities, people are sharing their stories. It’s happening and people are feeling like they want to speak out. It felt very in the moment for us to start this initiative.”
The initiative was kicked off by TBWA\WorldHealth’s Walter Geer and Wallye Holloway on social media to coincide with Black History Month. Geer. Holloway put out a call for people to share their experiences and talked about the health problems that disproportionately affect Black people.
“It’s known that there is systemic bias in the healthcare system when it comes to Black people,” Geer said in an interview. “The facts are alarming, but a bigger problem is that facts are just numbers on paper, it’s very easy to just continue on. What we decided to do is allow people to tell their stories. We rarely hear the stories of the average day-to-day person affected by this bias in healthcare.”
Geer, Holloway and their colleagues sent out a call to the agency’s Black employees, sharing startling facts about health disparities for Black people and asking for their healthcare stories. The team then interviewed their colleagues for the #BlackHealthNow videos, which Geer said was “emotionally charged” and even “painful.”
“But it’s a conversation that needs to happen,” he said.
The first story came from Bianca Williams, an art director at TBWA\WorldHealth. Williams spoke about watching doctors treat her grandmother as a “medical task” instead of a person and the frustration her grandmother experienced while hospitalized.
Each story will be paired with a statistic about Black people’s health outcomes. Williams’ story was tied to a fact that Black Americans are 25% more likely to die from heart disease than White Americans. A new video will go out every day until the end of February.
The effort will have three stages: an initial awareness push where #BlackHealthNow will share internal stories of Black people’s experiences with healthcare, an education effort where the initiative will post common questions and resources so Black patients are better prepared to interact with the healthcare system and a partnership stage where the initiative will work to have doctors commit to being Black health advocates.
“We’re making people more aware by starting a conversation about this,” Holloway said. “The next step is focused on how we can make sure people have the questions they should be asking, so when they’re interacting with the healthcare system, at least they are engaging with it. We’re empowering people so they don’t feel that they’re subject to the system, instead that they’re part of their own healthcare experience.”